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(PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Lamont)
Written by Daniella Litvak
Miguel de Cervantes was born near Madrid in 1547 and died in Madrid in 1616. He was a soldier, a prisoner, a poet, and a playwright. He is also credited with authoring the first modern novel —Don Quixote. Hundreds of years have passed since it was written, and the world still loves Don Quixote. The novel has spawned numerous adaptations. One of the most popular is Man of La Mancha — a Broadway musical created by Dale Wasserman, Joe Darion, and Mitch Leigh that debuted in 1965.
One the aspects making Man of La Mancha unique among the other Don Quixote adaptations is that the show is also a story about Miguel de Cervantes. Imagine if you will a late sixteenth century prison in Seville where Cervantes (Davis Gaines) has been taken because he has run afoul of the Church. Before he faces the Inquisition, Cervantes must also stand trial before his fellow prisoners. As his defense Cervantes assumes the role of Don Quixote, Cervantes’ servant plays Sancho (Roland Rusinek), Quixote’s loyal squire, the rest of the prisoners take on the parts of the other characters populating Don Quixote’s world, and they all act out the adventures of Don Quixote.
Don Quixote is an old man who believes he is a knight errant on a mission to vanquish evil. Unfortunately for him, knights no longer exist, and almost everyone —including his future nephew-in-law (Shannon Stoeke) and Aldonza (Nikki Crawford) the kitchen maid that Quixote thinks is his love, Dulcinea —is of the opinion that Quixote is a madman. Thus Quixote’s true quest becomes the task of getting everyone to look at the world as it should be and not as it is. Will he succeed, or will he be one doing the rethinking?
As mentioned in the Artistic Director’s Note, Man of La Mancha is not intended to be a faithful rendition of Cervantes’ life or of Don Quixote. Cervantes wrote Don Quixote as a farce, and the audience is meant to see Quixote as a fool. Despite that many people still believe in the nobility of Quixote’s actions, which Man of La Mancha capitalizes on. The result is an uplifting, touching show with a lot of humor and great songs.
Not all songs in a musical are created equal. While all good musicals should have great songs, there are always some songs in a show that are boring, clunky, or filler. Yet I cannot use any negative adjective to describe any song I heard in Man of La Mancha. The lyrics and music are excellent, but more than that the singing is phenomenal. Not only do I want to listen to every song over and over again, I really wish it could be the voices of this cast that I could hear on repeat. The orchestra is wonderful, and the other aspects of the actors’ performances are also excellent.
Truly there is not much to critique. To compliment the talented cast, the show also features high quality set design and costuming. The standout costume is the one for the Knight of the Mirror. It is dazzling —literally. All around this is one of the best shows I have watched in 2017. Do not miss seeing Man of La Mancha at La Mirada Theatre!
Sidenote: Man of La Mancha features mature content.
June 2 – 25, 2017
Story9.5Acting10Set & Design9.5Costumes9.5Entertainment10
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