UPDATE: This week's performances of the play have been postponed due to concerns over COVID-19. The performances scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 13, & 14, and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 15 are postponed and new dates will be announced in due course.
Man of La Mancha is a poignantly funny and optimistic retelling of “Don Quixote,” favoring hope and positivity. As the play is not a step by step rendering of “Don Quixote,” it focuses on the story of prisoners, as Dale Wasserman, playwright, intended the story to be realistic to what would be found in a 16th century prison.
“Man of La Mancha” director Travis Spangenburg said the production has been a delight to direct, and features various actors from different companies to bring the story to life.
“One of the most important things to me in the production process has been maintaining one of the chief ideas of the play: that it takes place in a prison, and the story is told by prisoners with limited access to props and costumes,” he said.
Spangenburg added Wasserman never intended “Man of La Mancha” to be a faithful retelling of “Don Quixote,” but rather, how the general story of Quixote can inspire the hopeless to dream again, by picking out highlights of the novel, and creating the story arc from the first half of the book.
“While Aldonza is very much at the heart of the story of 'Man of La Mancha,'” he said. “She doesn't figure as strongly into the plot of the book. With the prison framing device, Wasserman has created a story far more optimistic than what the real Cervantes laid out.”
Although “Man of La Mancha” is not the first musical Spangenburg has directed, he said it is first blatantly comedic play he has directed. He also directed “Killer Joe,” “Titus Andronicus” and “Macbeth.” “I approach direction with a deep respect for the acting work that happens onstage. It's important to me that actors, especially ones who are volunteering, have their talents and time respected,” he said.
As Spangenburg puts it, the joint artistic effort of telling a story together and is as old as humanity itself. “We've always needed stories to survive, to escape, and to understand ourselves.”
Audiences can expect a new rendition of “Man of La Mancha” as a fresh new production. Spangenburg said he has not seen another production of “Man of La Mancha,” and tries not to be influenced or emulate other directors, actors, or production elements.
“This is a 'Man of La Mancha' that is fully in the hands of the actors bringing it to life,” he said. “I think audiences should expect to laugh more than they would have thought. Both cast members and audience members so far have remarked that the play is a lot funnier than they remembered. On the flip side of that, I hope audiences come in ready to feel something. The play has some very startling and poignant moments and we've taken care to do those parts as much justice as the comedy.
As for the actors, Spangenburg said “Justin Kent as Cervantes and Quixote brings so much heart and depth to the poet. Ray Ellis is the ultimate Sancho Panza: riotously hilarious and deeply sympathetic. My Aldonza, Kayla Black, imbues her with such a feisty fire and a beautiful voice.”
“My trio of leads are brilliant, but I really have to give a huge amount of credit to the ensemble that fills out the rest of the roles. This production would fall flat without them, no matter how great the leads are,” he added.
“If I see other productions of 'Man of La Mancha,' I will always hold those actors up to the ones in this show. It's an extremely high bar as far as I'm concerned.”