Man of La Mancha in LA Review - The World Would be a Better Place

MAN OF LA MANCHA has probably been performed in 100 (or maybe 1000) venues since it came out – but La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts nailed it! This is by far and away one of the best revivals of the iconic show since its inception - helped, in no small part, by the splendid voices and spot-on acting of gifted Davis Gaines (Cervantes/Don Quixote), ably assisted by Roland Rusinek (Sancho Panza), Nikki Crawford (Aldonza/Dulcinea), and a host of other talented singers, actors, and dancers. Gaines held the audience in the palm of his hand, and a hush settled on the entire audience as Cervantes walked to his possible death at the hands of the inquisition.

Davis Gaines as Don Quixote and Roland Rusinek as Sancho Panza - Photo by Michael Lamont

Author Miguel de Cervantes (1547 – 1616) published this classic book, considered to be the first modern novel, in two parts. After a life begun in poverty and a series of adventures as a soldier severely wounded in action, a Barbary pirate hostage for five years, and a tax collector, he achieved fame and fortune in 1605, when Part I of “Don Quixote de la Mancha” became an immediate success. He embarked on a writing career which included novels, plays, and poetry. Part II of the seminal novel finally came out in 1615, one year before his death from diabetes.

Davis Gaines - Photo by Michael Lamont

Thereafter, Cervantes’ name faded into the annals of history until the eighteenth century, when interest in his literary contributions revived; and the literati began to tout his tremendous influence on the development of prose fiction.  It was not until the twentieth century, however, that artists from multiple disciplines began to see “Don Quixote” as a jumping off point for new and exciting  variations.

Nikki Crawford and the Company - Photo by Michael Lamont

In 1959, a teleplay written by Dale Wasserman and starring Lee J. Cobb and Eli Wallach caught everyone’s attention. In 1964, Mitch Leigh (music) and Joe Darion (lyrics) got hold of Wasserman’s play and adapted it to music. In 1965, MAN OF LA MANCHA arrived on Broadway. The musical originally starred Rex Harrison, who was replaced eventually by Richard Kiley, and went on to brilliant Broadway success, the recipient of coveted Tony’s for best musical and best actor, among others. In 1965, George Balanchine also choreographed a ballet based on the iconic novel. Cervantes’ novel has been translated into every major language, and Leigh and Darion’s musical has been performed all over the U.S. and abroad.

Davis Gaines and the Company - Photo by Michael Lamont

To this illustrious history, La Mirada Theatre’s revival of MAN OF LA MANCHA has added another stellar moment. With an impeccable cast, the popular songs in the musical again carry the audience back to a time when chivalry was certainly close to dead. Back to a time when one man tried to revive hope, love, and honor in a land where it was fast disappearing.

Davis Gaines and Nikki Crawford - Photo by Michael Lamont

Although originally written as a satire on chivalric values, these very same values seem to resonate with people everywhere – from Cervantes’ sixteenth century to today. Starring eccentric madman Don Quixote, who tilts at windmills and doesn’t accept a dismal reality, MAN OF LA MANCHA continues to powerfully deliver its message. When the strains of “An Impossible Dream” lit up the stage, there were few dry eyes in the house. This is a play to be enjoyed again and again – most especially when it is performed to such perfection in this current revival. Kudos to a very talented cast, brilliant musical direction by Jeff Rizzo, splendid direction by Glenn Casale, and the talents of the many skilled individuals in front of and behind the scenes. Don’t miss this production of MAN OF LA MANCHA.

SPLASH SELECTION

MAN OF LA MANCHA runs through June 25, 2017, with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, at 8 p.m. on Fridays, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. La Mirada Theatre of the Performing Arts is located at 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, CA 90638. Tickets range from $20 to $70. For information and reservations, call 562-944-9801 or 714-994-6310 or go online.

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