Miguel de Cervantes probably never envisioned that Don Quixote would some day embody the sentiment of a famous Broadway song, "The Impossible Dream." He also likely never considered that his seventeenth-century masterpiece would be reconceived as a musical, Man of La Mancha, and play in regional and community theaters all over the United States, or that he would himself be cast as a character in such a musical. And yet, all that has happened.
Four County Players has selected Man of La Mancha as their first spring production, and the first weekend was a sell-out. Cindy Semer, who has worked on publicity for the show, says, "This is a powerful and uplifting musical that has left audiences with feelings of hope and perhaps a belief that all dreams can come true."
I suppose we could argue that this was not the exact message Cervantes intended when he created the rather pathetic Quixote, but, alas, why argue in the face of success? The book and the musical version of the story have greatly influenced Western culture.
The play commences in a prison in Spain during the Inquisition. Cervantes' character, who is awaiting trial, begins to tell his fellow prisoners the story of Don Quixote, man of La Mancha. Quixote, a starry-eyed old man, imagines himself a knight and sets out to rid the world of scoundrels and evil-doers. The prisoners become the players in the story and act the parts of Quixote, his sidekick, Sancho Panza, and the folk they encounter in their adventurous quest.
Gail Yemington takes two roles in the production, as artistic director and musical director, and Alan Brown likewise performs dual duty, portraying both Cervantes and Don Quixote. Richard Kiley won a Tony for his portrayal on Broadway, and Peter O'Toole was cast in the movie version of the play, which also featured, notably, Sophia Loren as Dulcinea.
"This is a must-see musical with some of the best-loved songs of all time," Semer says. Call quickly, or you might find yourself tilting at windmills in your quest for tickets.
Man of La Mancha plays at Barboursville Community Center, 5256 Governor Barbour St, in Barboursville weekends through March 23. 8pm. $10-14. 540-832-5355.