The dramatic and stirring Broadway classic Man of La Mancha has returned to the stage at the Westport Country Playhouse in Westport Ct. This beautifully staged production at the Playhouse is true Broadway quality in every way. This is a brilliant show that cannot be missed.
Man of La Mancha is a musical inspired by the story of Miguel de Cervantes imprisonment during the Spanish Inquisition and is also inspired by his book Don Quixote written in 1615. The musical adaptation places Cervantes in a dungeon prison awaiting his hearing for charges brought against him by the inquisition. Cervantes is a self described poet and play write, as well as a tax collector. His latter position and his act of taxing a church has placed him in prison. His fellow prisoners upon meeting Cervantes and his loyal sidekick decide to have their own “mock trial” and seize his manuscript. The show is staged in the prison “commons” as the prisoners await trial. The curtains open to steel bars separating the actors from the sold out audience. The set is dramatic in both design and lighting and sets the mood for the evening.
Cervantes demands the opportunity to defend himself before his fellow prisoners and using his skills as an actor and a trunk full of costumes and props, he launches into a virtual “play within the play”. Along with his sidekick Sancho, the other prisoners become part of this story woven by Cervantes. Cervantes spins the tale of a noble knight on a noble quest, and he becomes Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha. Despite living in an era of fear and despair, Quixote is a dreamer. He dreams of a world where knights still roam spreading virtue and morals, performing noble quests and coming to the aid of their Lady. He exclaims he has seen and experienced the misery and tragedy in life, but he rather instead find the beauty and the goodness in life.
Quixote is a idealist and a dreamer and the audience (as it has been since its Broadway debut in the 1960s) becomes a fan of Quixote. His idealism for a simpler and kinder world is in stark contrast to the reality of 16th Century Spain. Indeed his spirit and ideals are what attract so many current audience members .
His idealism is manifested brilliantly in the song “The Impossible Dream” which is the hallmark of the evening. The song is instantly familiar to many, and yet it is so fresh and relevant today.
Philip Hernandez is masterful in the role Cervantes/Don Quixote (only actor in Broadway history to play both Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert in “Les Misérables”; original Broadway casts of “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and Paul Simon’s “The Capeman”) He has a wonderful deep voice that filled the playhouse on opening night. A brilliant and memorable performance.
Gisela Adisa as Aldonza/Dulcinea (Broadway’s “Beautiful,” First National Tour of “Sister Act,” regional theater’s “Lights Out: Nat King Cole” – 2018 Barrymore Award nomination) is wonderful in her dual role. Tony Manna play Sancho Panza the side kick and faithful companion to Don Quixote(Off-Broadway’s “These Paper Bullets,” “Timon of Athens,” “The Hasty Heart”; Netflix’ “Maniac”). He brings to the role a sort of humor and warmth to which the audience enjoyed.
This production of Man of La Mancha is directed by Mark Lamos who has directed many plays at Westport Country Playhouse since 2008. His extensive New York credits include “Our Country’s Good,” for which he received a Tony Award nomination. A former artistic director at Hartford Stage, he earned the 1989 Tony Award for the theater’s body of work. His direction of this production is mostly faithful to the original, but injects a modern vibe with the costumes of some of the cast as well as a reference in the dialogue to our current political climate that was recognized by the audience.
This is one of the great Broadway musicals of all time. Its story is timeless and quite relevant in the world we now live. Make sure you see this wonderful show.
For tickets and information: http://www.westportplayhouse.org
Westport Country Playhouse
25 Powers Ct Westport Ct.
Box office at (203) 227-4177, toll-free at 1-888-927-7529,