Luke Pappaspanos, Contributing Writer
Yes, there is still time! Get ready to be amazed at how one person made a difference and dared to dream. The theatre is a venue where magic takes place. People from all walks of life work together for a common goal: the presentation of the show. Musicians, carpenters, singers, dancers, electricians, costumers and performers can create an astonishing wonderland experience for their audiences. Literature, foreign language, theatre, world cultures and history majors are familiar with the great author Miguel de Cervantes who wrote the novel “El Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote.”
The stage play, “The Man of La Mancha” by Dale Wasserman, built the show around Cervantes and not Don Quixote. The first public performance was seen in 1965 as an off-Broadway show. The play appeared on television in 1959 in which the title was changed to “I, Don Quixote.” When the play resurfaced as a musical the original title was restored. This theatrical masterpiece captivated audiences and thrilled the public when the show hit the “big screen” for its film debut in 1972.
The production was a hit from its very beginning. In 1966, the show won 5 Tony Awards, with Best Musical being one of them. For over 50 years, Tony Awards and nominations continued, including the Drama Desk Award for Best Revival of a Musical. The production has been seen all over the globe, in England, of course, China, and the former Soviet Union.
The acclaimed show has been translated into numerous languages and dialects. “The Man of La Mancha” has been presented on stage well over 2,000 times. More recently, it has arrived at Stages St. Louis on Sept. 6 and can be viewed until Sunday, October 6.
A stagehand and Applause Gala Committee volunteer, Joanie Taylor, stated that, “I’ve already seen the show 18 times and I never get tired of seeing it. Since there is not a good place for a break in the show there is no intermission.”
Taylor recommended that viewers bring tissues, because the show will bring on the tears. Taylor unveiled the future location for Stages St. Louis. She explained that in 2021, Stages will be relocated to 210 East Monroe Avenue in Kirkwood, Missouri. The line-up of shows will begin with the most requested show by patrons, “A Chorus Line.”
In “The Man of La Mancha,” Don Quixote sees only the best in all people; even when his circumstances are grim and dreadful. Even confined to a dungeon prison, he finds joy or maybe he retreats into madness. Is this an act of a desperate prisoner to regain his manuscript? The governor is the catalyst that forces Cervantes to be prepared with a defense for his future trial.
“The Man of La Mancha” is a musical that mesmerizes audiences when Don Quixote sings, “The Impossible Dream” (“The Quest”). It brought tears to the eyes of each audience member. The “Barber’s Song” was a comic relief as was the “Golden Helmet of Mambrino.” This cast did not miss a beat. Dance numbers and choreography enhanced the storyline of the production. The audience felt the pain of Aldonza when she sang, “It’s All the Same,” “Aldonza,” and “The Abduction” musical numbers.
Before Cervantes left the dungeon prison, the governor handed Cervantes AKA Don Quixote the manuscript and declared him not guilty.
After the final bow and the curtain closed, the cast and crew left their characters behind. They were available to meet and greet friends or admirers outside. Steve Isom who was cast as the governor and the innkeeper said that, “this is the second time I have played this role. Fourteen years ago, I played it for the first time and that too was here at Stages.”
A St. Louis Post Dispatch reviewer, Calvin Wilson, wrote on Sept. 15, “‘Man of La Mancha’ is a sheer joy and a show that brings this Stages season to a triumphant close.”
A few local theaters with upcoming performances are:
Stray Dog Theatre, October 10-26: “The Who’s”
Stifel Theatre, October 4: Kevin James and October 25: Trisha Yearwood
Fabulous Fox, October 1-13: “Hello Dolly”
Touhill Performing Arts Center at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, October 19: “Mary Poppins”
Kranzberg Arts Center, September 27- October 13: “The Agitators”
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, October 18: “The Lifespan of a Fact”