‘Man of La Mancha’ opens at La Mirada Civic Theater

 

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Winner of Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Score, Man of La Mancha has become one of the most enduring works of musical theater. Celebrating life – not as it is, but as it should be – is at the heart of this inspiring and unforgettable musical.

McCoy Rigby Entertainment opened their production last night at the La Mirada Civic Theater. It continues through June 25.

Chivalrous knight Don Quixote embarks on an unpredictable adventure that takes him into battles with an imaginary foe and into romance with the beautiful Dulcinea.

The Spanish-influenced score is a musical delight, containing the magnificent and uplifting anthem to all that is best in us: “The Impossible Dream.” Remember what it is to believe in all that is noble, heroic and romantic with this rousing classic.

 Orange County Register’s feature writer  wrote an interesting preview in Thursday’s edition.

“Director Glenn Casale saw the tragicomic hero Don Quixote defy reality in the classic musical “Man of La Mancha” for the first time when he was 15 years old – and he was hooked.

“So much so, that the “Peter Pan” Broadway director has adapted the play more than a dozen times, adding more or less to the traditional story, while staying true to its message every time.

“There is something about this play that has always drawn me to it,” Casale said. “The message of the importance of honesty and nobility, having hope and being a dreamer, will always have relevance, particularly in today’s world.”

“Written by Dale Wasserman, and featuring Spanish-influenced music by Joe Darion and Mitch Leigh, the adaptation of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical will open with a preview at the La Mirada Theatre on Friday, June 2, with regular performances running Sunday, June 4, through June 25.

“Broadway’s “Phantom of the Opera” actor Davis Gaines will return to La Mirada in his Ovation Award-winning role as the intrepid author-soldier-actor and tax collector Miguel de Cervantes, A.K.A. Don Quixote. Casale and Gaines have worked together a number of times, including “Camelot,” “Masada, the Musical” and several productions of “Man of La Mancha.”

“Davis is a brilliant actor that fits perfectly for the role of Don Quixote. He brings his own personality to the character and works naturally with the rest of the cast so it feels very genuine,” Casale said.

“The story takes place in a prison during the 15th century Spanish Inquisition, where author and soldier Cervantes faces a mock trial from his fellow prisoners and a real one with the Inquisition. Using his imagination, Cervantes reenacts his novel about Don Quixote, a poor nobleman who seeks to save the world through kindness and following one’s dreams – no matter how impossible they may be.

“Known for taking on classic plays and tweaking them with his own vision, including both “Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “The Little Mermaid” at the La Mirada Theatre last year, Casale said this production will follow the same story and time period, but the audience will still experience some differences.

“The multi-layered set will appear like a Spanish prison and will be positioned as close to the audience as possible (much like the stage was set for Casale’s “Hunchback of Notre Dame” at La Mirada Theatre, for those who attended), so the theater will feel extra-intimate.

“The audience is going to feel like they are actually in prison with the characters and experience all of the emotions that come with that. … It will feel like a very personal and interactive experience for everyone,” Casale said.

Another tweak is the characters in the play. Casale gave the 21-cast ensemble creative freedom to create their characters’ back stories, in hopes of the actors feeling personally connected to their roles and bringing more depth to the character to the stage.

“I had each actor create their own prisoner’s story so they could encompass their characters, and they all committed to this technique incredibly,” he said. “One wears a veil and is lost in her own world. Another one is carrying a doll that she feels like is her real baby.”

“The original 1965 Broadway production won five Tony Awards, including best musical, and has been revived on Broadway four more times since. The score, performed by a live band, includes the Broadway standard“The Impossible Dream,” for which the play is most recognized.

“Casale emphasized that although the story contains several adult themes, including rape, murder and romance, the musical is for the whole family. He said he encourages all ages to see it, as he did when he was a teenager, because it is “life-changing.”

“The story has so many great messages about hope, celebrating life, being kind to others … so many important issues and messages that no matter how old you are will resonate with you for a long time.”

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Matinees at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Audience Talk-Back sessions with the cast will be Wednesdays, June 7 and June 21.

Tickets range from $14 to $70, with discounts for seniors, students and groups.

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Open-Captioned performance: Saturday, June 17 at 2pm.

ASL interpreted performance: Saturday, June 24 at 2pm.

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