Baylor Opera and Jazz Ensemble dazzle in “The Man of La Mancha”

Alex Parker, director of jazz, conducts the Baylor Jazz Ensemble as opera students perform “The Man of La Mancha” Wednesday at the Hippodrome. Photo credit: Trey Honeycutt

The Baylor Opera Theater and Baylor Jazz Ensemble teamed up for a two-night performance of “The Man of La Mancha” Tuesday and Wednesday at the Waco Hippodrome Theatre. The concert was a stripped-down version of the beloved Broadway musical, which turned the audience’s attention on the performers and the music instead of the set or costumes.

The original “The Man of La Mancha” shows Miguel de Cervantes, the author of “Don Quixote,” musically performing his own hero’s exploits in a prison yard. Cervantes plays Don Quixote, a knight bent on fighting for justice and wooing Aldonza, an abused woman.

The production isolated winning numbers like “Impossible Dream” and “I Really Like Him” from the original to showcase the talents of the performing students.

The Hippodrome was packed full of audience members ranging in all age-groups at the 7:30 p.m. performance Wednesday. As the theater dimmed, Octavio Cárdenas, director of Baylor Opera Theater, spoke a few words about the concert to the audience members.

Cárdenas shared that, along with the performance that evening, select audience members would be asked to fill out a survey that would benefit the Baylor School of Music, the Hippodrome and the Waco arts community.

“For the very first time, Waco is honored to be one of the focus cities for this important research into the arts,” Cárdenas said.

Ken and Kathy Sprinkle, two audience members from New Mexico, came particularly to see cast member North Richland Hills sophomore Blayke Drury play the role of Aldonza.

“We are excited to see this version of ‘Man of La Mancha,’” Ken Sprinkle said. “I have seen the musical many times, but this is the first version I have seen composed for a jazz ensemble.”

As the performance started, Cárdenas shared with the audience that he too would be a part of the concert opera.

“We have taken some liberties with the show to make it flow with the concert,” Cárdenas said.

The show lasted a little over an hour and was filled with songs performed from the original musical. Although it was stripped to only a selection of songs from the original, the concert was easy to follow, ending with a standing ovation from the audience.