Don Quixote reaches the Impossible Dream at The Mac-Haydn Theatre.
Inspired by Miquel de Cervantes’s masterpiece, Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha is the story of one man’s refusal to give up his impossible dream even in the face of almost certain death. Having been imprisoned during the Spanish Inquisition and awaiting his trial, Cervantes creates for his fellow inmates, a play within a play; using them as members of his cast he creates the world of Don Quixote. As they begin to embody their roles in the play, the rag tag hardened criminals become softened caring and even loving humans again. Don Quixote takes his crew on his journey to become knighted. Referred to as the “mad” knight, the audience joins the story fighting windmills, spending the night in a castle and learning to see that perhaps the world Quixote envisions is a better place to live in than the world they actually inhabit.
The show is dark, morose and yet has flashes of bright light, humor, and eternal optimism. The production currently on stage at Mac-Haydn has taken all of the facets from Dale Wasserman’s book and the stunning music and lyrics by Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion and brought them to life magically. Andrew Gmoser’s set design is startlingly simplistic and dramatically stunning. The moment one enters the theater, you feel as if you are in the bowels of a dank, dark, prison. One can feel the cold dampness emanating from the set, even on one of the warmest days of the year. Kurt Alger and Matthew Oliver carry out the feeling of despair, poverty and filth in their perfectly executed costume and hair and makeup.
Director and choreographer Todd Underwood have put together a nearly flawless cast for this production. Lead by Mac-Haydn veteran, Gabe Belyeu who owns the stage every moment he is under the lights, Belyeu presents a perfect Don Quixote, making the audience believe all of his visions are not the hallucinations of a mad man, but reality just beyond the horizon out of our line of sight. He brings an interesting twist to his rendition of the show’s classic, The Impossible Dream, making it no less effective than the traditional, but making the audience hear it as if for the first time.
Maya Cuevas owns her part as Aldonza/Dulcinea offering some stunningly beautiful and tender moments throughout the show while at the same time keeping a wall around her that is impenetrable. Hayden Ponjuan, Kelly Gabrielle Murphy, and Rachel Pantazis’s strong voices are a pleasure, particularly during their rendition of I’m Only Thinking of Him. Rounding out the lead cast members is Anthony Velez, as Sancho, the squire to Don Quixote. Velez’s tilt on the role is perhaps a bit jarring over the top and does not seem fit in too well with this production. His comic moments are fun and help brighten the mood, but overall, he tends to be more of a distraction then comedian. The voices of the rest of the cast blend beautifully and the choreography never ceases to amaze what can be accomplished on a stage of that size.
The show is an event that should not be missed… it will allow you several hours of escapism that in these times, makes you forget the world we are living in right now or realize that things can always be worse. Through it all, Don Quixote never loses his zest for life or eternal optimism. Perhaps we can all learn something.
Man of La Mancha is appearing through September 5. You must be fully masked and show proof of vaccination in order to enter the theater. Tickets are $42. For more information call the theater at 518-392-9292