TR Robertson — There can be nothing more satisfying for a Theatre Company than to end their season on a high note and Oceanside Theatre Company rose to the occasion with a wonderful presentation and beautifully acted performance of the Tony Award winning musical, “Man of La Mancha”. The musical will be running at the Brooks Theatre in Oceanside, on Saturdays and Sundays, thru May 26th,
Led by a passionate lead performance by Rudy Martinez, as both the imprisoned Cervantes and the dedicated/delusional knight Quixote; a humorous and beguiling presentation of manservant Sancho Panza by Steve Lawrence; an emotional and feisty portrayal of both the lowly bar maid Aldonza and the knight’s Lady Dulcinea by Tara Sampson and a talented supporting cast; playwright Dale Wasserman’s play-within-a-play of struggle, dedication and commitment, fantasy and heartbreak once again comes to life on stage.
Under the direction of Producing Artistic Director Ted Leib and his Production Team, consisting of Choreographer/Assistant Director Katie Banville, Musical Director Lyndon Pugeda, Stage manager Charmaine Reed, Props Emily Sperling, Set Designer N. Dixon Fish, Lighting Designer Kristin Drum and Costume Designers Roslyn Lehman and Renetta Lloyd, the classic tale of the misguided and somewhat delusional knight, Don Quixote, enthralls and captures the audience at The Brooks Theatre stage.
The musical was written by Dale Wasserman with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion. It is actually adapted from Wasserman’s non-musical, “I, Don Quixote”, and the basic story comes from Miguel de Cervantes 17th century novel, The Ingenious Gentleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha, otherwise best known as Don Quixote. Wasserman’s play was shown, in 1959, on television on CBS’s “DuPont Show of the Month” with an estimated audience of some 20 million people. The originator of the tale, Cervantes, is considered the greatest writer in the Spanish language and the novel would become the most translated book in the world, behind The Bible. According to historians, Cervantes said the protagonist, Quixote, in the novel does not represent him; but as historians have looked further into Cervantes life, the similarities out-weigh the differences.
The novel has gone through a number of interpretations. It has been called a comic novel, a tragedy, a social and political commentary, and a combination of all of these. Wasserman’s revision of his play into a musical, took the massive novel and his main character, Miguel de Cervantes, and his persona, Alonso Quijano, the knight-errant Don Quixote de la Mancha, and tried to humanize him while capturing the essence of the nobility and romance of a wayward man on a mission. Wasserman’s musical would go on to be nominated for 7 Tony Awards in 1966, winning 5 Tony’s including Best Musical, Best Direction and Best Score. Several of the songs would become some of the most memorable songs in musical theatre history – “The Impossible Dream”, “Dulcinea”, “I Really Like Him” and “Little Bird, Little Bird”. The play premiered on Broadway at the ANTA Washington Square Theatre in 1965.
The play-within-a-play is somewhat complicated, but the premise of the story is Miguel de Cervantes is a tax collector, who has served in a number of other positions. He is accused of wrongfully taxation and has been imprisoned along with his servant, Sancho Panza. For the Oceanside Theatre, Director Ted Leib has placed the scene of the play in a South American prison in the 20th century. There is an Inquisition in progress and the prison is full of people suspected of some type of wrong doing against the government. The prisoners decide to take everything Cervantes has arrived with, but Cervantes convinces The Governor to allow him to put on a play, using the other prisoners, that they will be able to judge to decide his guilt or innocence. As the play unfolds, we meet what is seemingly a delusional, mad gentleman, a knight errant named Don Quixote and his squire, Sancho Panza. Don Quixote is on a mission to assist those in need, battling giants (windmills), assisting a fair maiden in need (Aldonza a woman working in an Inn who he believes is the fair maiden Dulcinea), battling an army of wrong-doers (Mulers drinking and carousing at the Inn and threatening Dulcinea), finding a golden helmet (a barbers shaving basin) and being knighted as Knight of the Woeful Countenance by the Inn Keeper, who he believes is in charge of the castle (the Inn) where all of this is unfolding. As the play is drawing to a close, The Governor and the other prisoners are not satisfied with the ending of the play and make Cervantes come up with a better ending, just when Cervantes is called to go before the Inquisition.
The Oceanside Theatre presentation of this classic musical using a talented fifteen member cast, a 6 piece orchestra and a simple but very effective set has once again brought this Tony Award winning musical to life. Along with the amazing lead actors and actresses a supporting cast led by Tom Brault, playing the Governor/Innkeeper; Kaleb Scott, playing The Duke/Dr. Carrasco/Knight of the Mirror and Bob Himlin, playing The Padre, presents this engrossing tale with emotion and clarity.
“Man of La Mancha” is on stage at the Brooks Theatre, 217 North Coast Highway, Oceanside, until May 26th. The performances are on Saturdays at 7:30 pm and on Sundays at 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm. Ticket prices range from $19 to $34 and can be purchased at www.oceansidetheatre.org. or call 760-433-8900.