Man of La Mancha: the classic Broadway musical now at Westport Country Playhouse

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Philip Hernandez as Don Quixote

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.

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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.

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Gisela Adisa as Aldonza/Dulcinea

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,

 

 

 

Camelot: a fresh adaptation of the classic musical at Westport Country Playhouse

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The legendary musical “Camelot” featuring Tony Award winner Robert Sean Leonard is currently being staged at the Westport Country Playhouse in Westport Ct.  The musical is based on the novel “The Once and Future King”by  T.H. White, which retells the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.  The musical Camelot which opened on Broadway in 1960 and written by Lerner and Lowe starred Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet.   It was the recipient of four Tony Awards.

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The story involves King Arthur of England and his ascent to the throne.  There he wants to create a new society of men, where differences are not settled by battle and war, but by courts of law.  He wants to bring peace to the land and creates a brotherhood of Knights whose mission it is not to bring war but to spread out and do good and noble deeds. Camelot is born and with it is the idealism of a better world.  It is in this setting that King Arthur meets and weds Guinevere,  and later is joined by Sir Lancelot.  It is this relationship that becomes a love triangle and threatens the very foundation of Camelot.

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The current production is a fresh and innovative look at the classic musical.  The entire production has been streamlined from the original and the story moves along easily during the 2 hour performance.  I have seen other productions of Camelot which are heavier and slower paced.  This production seems lighter, fresh and breathes new life into this classic.  Almost all the Lerner and Lowe songs are present in the production.  As part of the thinning of  the story, some of the better known characters such as Merlin are absent.

The performances by the actors are superb!  Robert Sean Leonard as King Arthur is magnificent and it is no wonder he is the recipient of several Tony nominations  and a Tony Award.  He brings a bounty of emotion to the role which was felt by the audience especially at the end of Act 2.    Britney Coleman is delightful as Guinevere, as her acting and amazing vocal talents light up the stage.    Excellent performances were also given by the rest of the cast including Stephen Mark Lukas as Lancelot and Patrick Andrews as Mordred.   A wonderful job by David Lee who adapted the book, and Mark Lamos for his direction.  The cast was greeted by an enthusiastic standing ovation at the conclusion of the performance.

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Performances run through November 5th 2016.

for tickets and more information including videos:

http://www.westportplayhouse.org/

Westport Playhouse

25 Powers Court Westport Ct

 

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“What The Butler Saw”, a hysterical British comedy at Westport Playhouse

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“What the Butler Saw” is now playing at the Westport Country Playhouse in Westport Ct.  This historic theater which opened over 80 years ago has  hosted to a long list of amazing theatrical talent. Among the actors to grace the stage here over the years are Jane Fonda, Gene Wilder, Richard Dreyfuss, Jane Powell, Jerry Stiller and Paul Newman just to name a few.

The current production is a comedy written by Joe Orton back in the 1960s.  It is a classic British farce and the laughs are plentiful as the play(under 2 hours) really moves along.   It addresses such topics as marriage, infidelity, mental health, gender roles and gender definition, and of course the changing opinion of who in the cast is sane or insane.

The story is set in Britain in the office of a Doctor at a psychiatric clinic.  Dr. Prentice (Robert Stanton) interviews a young woman, Geraldine Barclay (Sarah Manton) who is seeking a job as his secretary.  His motives are quite clear wants to seduce the young woman and nearly does so when his nymphomaniac wife, Mrs. Prentice (Patricia Kalember) enters his office and the entire story goes quite mad from here. The audience has to hold on as we learn Mrs. Prentice is being blackmailed by a hotel bell hop (Chris Ghaffari) .The arrival of Dr Rance (brilliantly played by Paxton Whitehead) really shakes things up.  He is a psychiatrist sent by the British Government to inspect the clinic.  His arrival further turns the story on his head with his crazy misdiagnoses of everyone including Dr. Prentice.

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There is mistaken identity, false accusations and the local police (Julian Gamble) are involved try to resolve the whole mess.  The comedic timing of the actors is flawless. Direction by John Tillinger is fantastic and the cast really works together well.  Set design of the clinic office and its numerous doors (which are put to comedic use as the actors us them to great effect) is well done.

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The actors have a long list of impressive credentials.  Paxton Whitehead has made numerous appearances on Broadway  including, “My Fair Lady” , and many television and movie appearances including “Back to School” with Rodney Dangerfield.   Patricia Kalember has numerous Broadway and stage credits.  She has appeared in films and in television shows such as “Sisters” “Orange is the New Black” , “Law and Order” and many more. The whole cast is wonderful and the audience really enjoyed the performance.

“What the Butler Saw” has adult theme as is not suitable for children.

Don’t miss this hysterical comedy!

For tickets, show times and more information:

http://www.westportplayhouse.org/

Westport Country Playhouse

25 Powers Court  Westport Ct.

 

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