MAN OF LA MANCHA, Light Opera Works, at Northwestern University, Cahn Auditorium. With Nicholas Saverine in the title role, the famed knight-errant is a man of great dignity and passion. Here Don Quixote’s madness calls for envy rather than pity; his foibles are a source of fun rather than frustration. And Jeff Dumas as his eminently likable sidekick, Sancho Panza, easily wins our affection. These two enjoy their misadventures so much that we cannot fail to do the same.

Working with a richly designed, evocatively lit set, director David Perkovich brings out the best in this musical with an attractive, purposeful staging, tapping into the show’s wit and sense of adventure. The ensemble’s voices and characterizations are consistently strong, but Alex Honzen, Ann G. Hoselitz, and Calland Metts stand out for the personality they bring to their roles. Marie Svejda is captivating as Aldonza, the kitchen maid who becomes Dulcinea–she’s wonderfully transformed as her character’s coarse roughness gives way to confusion and, later, self-assurance. Choreographer Rudy Hogenmiller relies on dance moves instead of fight choreography for the play’s brawls, weakening their impact, but otherwise his work is expressive. Accompanied by a buoyant orchestra, this show plays up the story’s passion, magic, and idealism. –Jenn Goddu