Delaware Theatre Company (DTC) closes its 43rd season with the excellent and heartwarming Man of La Mancha. Winner of five Tony Awards including Best Musical, Man of La Mancha features adventure, romance, and rousing classics like “The Impossible Dream” and “I, Don Quixote.” Set during the Spanish Inquisition, the titular Man of La Mancha embarks on an ambitious quest to right all wrongs in the world.
The show was written by Dale Wasserman with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion. It is skillfully directed by DTC Executive Director Matt Silva. Unique to DTC’s production, the sweepingly epic score is brought to life by the performers themselves – all actor/musicians who play their instruments live on stage. Simply stated, they are masters of their substantial crafts.
The opening number (“Prison Scene”) exhibits the cast’s vast range of musical, vocal, and acting chops on a magical set designed by Chris Haig. The setting is a dungeon with articulating stage parts, platforms, stairs, entryways, and steaming floor gates. Literally, the stage is set for an epic theatrical adventure.
And DTC’s Man of La Mancha delivers in a grand way. The story is captivating, the pacing is tight, the acting is superb, and the music is timeless. The company had the audience in the palm of its collective hand, delivering a great Opening Night performance.
When Miguel de Cervantes (Scott Langdon) and his manservant (Victor Rodriguez, Jr.) are thrown into the dungeon by the Spanish Inquisition, doom pervades the scene. Their fellow prisoners attack the newcomers and are eager to steal the contents of a large trunk Cervantes has brought with him. However, a sympathetic criminal known as “the Governor” (Nichalas Parker) suggests setting up a mock trial instead. Only if Cervantes is found guilty will he have to hand over his possessions. Cervantes immediately pleads guilty, but then asks if he may offer a defense in the form of a play, acted out by him and all the prisoners. The “Governor” agrees, and the prisoners watch Cervantes transform into Alonso Quijana – an old gentleman who has read so many books of chivalry and thought so much about injustice that he has lost his mind and set out as a knight-errant. Quijana renames himself “Don Quixote de La Mancha” and goes off to find adventures with his squire, Sancho Panza. The pair tilt at windmills and later take refuge at an inn Quixote swears is a castle.
Langdon and Rodriguez portray Don Quixote and Sancho Panza with prowess. Quixote’s wobbly knee and shattered mind is captured beautifully by Langdon with his powerful stage presence and voice. The role is difficult because the actor must inhabit a political prisoner playing an old man believing he is a chivalric knight. Langdon deftly shifts from mindset to mindset plus delivers superb singing in solo and ensemble pieces. The wonderful physical humor and sincerity Rodriguez imbues into Panza is matched only by his soaring vocals. To quote a line from Panza in the show, “I like him.”
Of course, any great quest must have a damsel and Sierra Wilson towers in her portrayal of Aldonza/Dulcinea. Don Quixote sees the inn’s serving wench and part-time prostitute Aldonza and declares that she is his lady, Dulcinea, to whom he has sworn eternal loyalty (“Dulcinea”). Aldonza is confused and annoyed by Quixote’s persistence but comes around to his kindness by providing him a token of her esteem – an old dishrag. Wilson tempered her powerful voice when required and raised it to stratospheric heights in moments of passion. She commanded you to watch her whenever she was on stage.
Back in the story, Don Quixote’s niece has gone with his housekeeper to seek advice from the local priest, who realizes that the two women are more concerned with the embarrassment Quijana’s madness may bring them than with his actual welfare (“I’m Only Thinking of Him”). Self-serving people want to return Quijana to his home, end the charade of Quixote, and have the old man quietly live out the rest of his life.
What happens to Quixote, Quijana, and Cervantes — plus the ancillary characters on stage — won’t be revealed herein. Suffice it to say there are epic battles, both verbal and physical; personal growth; and hope springing from despair. I can say with confidence that many theatergoers will be humming “The Impossible Dream” walking out through the lobby after the curtain drops.
Other highlights of the show include Josh Totora’s performance of “Barber’s Song” as a one-man band; the four-man guitar-playing arrangement (with percussion) during “Little Bird, Little Bird”; the brilliant effects during “Knight of the Mirrors”; and the overall motion of the action. Kudos to director Silva for keeping things dynamic on stage with insightful physical instructions for his players.
The performance schedule of Man of La Mancha is: Wednesdays (2:00pm), Thursdays (7:00pm), Fridays (8:00pm), Saturdays (2:00pm & 8:00pm), and Sundays (2:00pm) through April 30. Tickets start at $29 while discounts are available for students, groups, and military members/veterans. The show is roughly two-and-a-quarter hours long with one 15-minute intermission. There will be pre-show Viewpoints on Wednesdays at 1:15pm during the run plus talkbacks after Thursday performances. Call (302)594-1100 or visit DelawareTheatre.org to purchase tickets or for performance information. Delaware Theatre Company is located at 200 Water Street in Wilmington.
My advice is to “sit aquí” at DTC and enjoy the show!