By Robert Simonson
and Kenneth Jones
05 Dec 2002
The new revival of Man of La Mancha, which tilted at a month's worth of windmills at Washington's National Theatre Oct. 8-Nov. 10, will open at Broadway's Martin Beck Theatre on Dec. 5 after previews from Nov. 23.
Brian Stokes Mitchell, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Ernie Sabella are Don Quixote, Aldonza and Sancho, respectively, in this Jonathan Kent-directed production. Luis Perez is choreographer, having taken over for Richard Amaro, who left for personal family reasons. Official opening is Dec. 5.
An original cast album was recorded on Nov. 14 at Right Track Recording in Manhattan. RCA Victor will release the cast recording on Jan. 7, 2003. Bob Billig is the music director.
The musical, which won a Tony for Best Musical in 1965, was drawn from Miguel Cervantes' 17th-century novel, "Don Quixote," as distilled through a script by Dale Wasserman. The music is by Mitch Leigh, with lyrics by Joe Darion, who died at the age of 90 in 2001. Leigh wrote several songs for the show with the poet W.H. Auden, but they disagreed about aspects of the project, so Darion was enlisted. The show began life at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT, and had a smash success for 2,328 performances on Broadway. It has been revived on Broadway four times since, including the current effort.
The musical is memorably set during the Spanish Inquisition, with Cervantes brought up on charges and dumped in a jail, where inmates threaten him as they all await their fate. To distract them, Cervantes creates a drama out of a new tale he's writing — "Don Quixote." Assuming the lead role and enlisting the inmates as an acting company, they spin the story of the addled knight, his servant, the slattern they elevate to lady and the people in their lives.
The prison is rendered in towering proportions by set (and costume) designer Paul Brown. The rusty metal cell walls climb to the ceiling of the Martin Beck stage, a long curving staircase snaking up the back. The walls frequently separate along an angle to reveal various vistas evoked in Cervantes tale. The set, weighing over one ton in all, is in keeping with Kent's previous productions, which have frequently been heavily anchored by imposing scenic designs. (His Medea famously ended with the thunderous unlatching of several hetal metal panels.) Paul Gallo provided the dusky lighting. Tony Meola is the sound designer.
Mitchell has starred on Broadway in each of the past six seasons—a rare achievement even for the theatre's most sought after actors. His winning streak began with Ragtime, which arrived in New York in early 1998. Mitchell stayed with the show well into the 1998-99 season. Late 1999 saw him return in Kiss Me, Kate. He then starred in the title role in August Wilson's King Hedley II, which opened at the tail end of the 2000-01 season. He was nominated for a Tony for Ragtime and won for Kate.
Mastrantonio—who here displays a trained singing voice unknown to fans of her film work—was last seen on the New York stage at Lincoln Center Theater in Tom Donaghy's Northeast Local. More than a decade ago, she was in a in a Central Park mounting of Twelfth Night. She played Viola. Her Broadway credits include West Side Story, Copperfield, Oh, Brother, The Human Comedy and The Marriage of Figaro. Among her many films are "The Abyss," "The Color of Money," and "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves."
Sabella made his name playing the hoarse-voiced Harry the Horse opposite Nathan Lane's Nathan Detroit in Broadway's Guys and Dolls and has since starred with Lane in several other vehicles, including A Funny Thing Happened... on Broadway, "Encore! Encore!" on television and "The Lion King" on the big screen.
Jonathan Kent, the London director behind such Britain-to-Broadway hits as Medea with Diana Rigg and Hamlet with Ralph Fiennes, is at the helm.
Mark Jacoby (as The Padre), Stephen Bogardus (Dr. Carrasco), Don Mayo (The Innkeeper) and Natascia Diaz (Antonia) take key supporting roles. Also in the cast are Bradley Dean, Olga Merediz, Frederick B. Owens, Jamie Torcellini, Timothy J. Alex, Andy Blankenbuehler, John Herrera, Jamie Karen, Lorin Latarro, Carlos Lopez, Wilson Mendieta, Gregory Mitchell, Richard Montoya, Michelle Rios, Thom Sesma, Jimmy Smagula, Dennis Stowe and Allyson Tucker.
David Stone, Jon B. Platt, Susan Quint Gallin, Sandy Gallin, Seth M. Siegel and USA Ostar Theatricals will produce. The design team includes sets and costumes by Paul Brown; lighting design by Paul Gallo; and sound design by Tony Meola.
Richard Kiley was the original Don Quixote on Broadway and he was never long away from the role. Following the show's initial long run on Broadway (where it moved twice over six years), Kiley starred in Rialto revivals on Mancha in 1972 and 1977. Joan Diener was his Aldonza/Dulcinea the first and second time; Emily Yancy, who had played the part at matinees during the original run, took on the role in 1977. Irving Jacobson was the first Sancho and returned to the role in 1972. One of his replacements during the premiere run was Tony Martinez, who also portrayed the sidekick in 1977 and 1989, opposite Raul Julia and Sheena Easton. Martinez died on Sept. 23, having played Sancha 2,245 times, including road tours.
For tickets call Telecharge, (212) 239-6200.
According to the book "It's a Hit!," Wasserman wrote Man of La Mancha because to an error in a newspaper column, which said the writer was visiting Spain to research a play based on Cervantes' novel. Wasserman was actually there to research a film project, but he was inspired. He read the book, retraced the author's travels through Iberia, and penned a television drama. The show broadcast in 1959. While contemplating turning the teleplay into a stage drama, Wasserman was urged by director Albert Marre to make it a musical. He did.
The show's musical numbers include "Man of La Mancha," "The Impossible Dream," "Little Bird, Little Bird," "It's All the Same," "To Each His Dulcinea," "I'm Only Thinking of Him" and more.