The Roswell Community Little Theatre brings the legendary story of Don Quixote to stage
By Christina Stock
The Roswell Community Little Theatre, 1717 S. Union Ave., presents the iconic “Man of La Mancha — The Musical.” Inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ 17th-century masterpiece, “Don Quixote,” “Man of La Mancha” is one of the most successful musicals in Broadway history. Powerful, sexy, brutal, hilarious and heartbreaking, “Man of La Mancha” celebrates the perseverance of a dying old man who refuses to relinquish his ideals or his passion.
The celebrated score includes “The Impossible Dream,” “I, Don Quixote,” “Dulcinea,” “I Really Like Him,” “Little Bird” and “To Each His Dulcinea.”
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The public has three weekends, Sept. 6 to 8, 13 to 15 and 20 to 22, to see the show with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and on Sundays at 2 p.m.
The award-winning Broadway musical, “Man of La Mancha” was written by Dale Wasserman, music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion.
The show made its world premiere in 1965 at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut, and later that year made its New York premiere at the ANTA Washington Square Theatre. “Man of La Mancha” won five Tony Awards in 1966, garnering the trophies for Best Musical, Best Composer and Lyricist, Best Actor in a Musical for Richard Kiley, Best Scenic Design for Howard Bay and Best Direction of a Musical for Albert Marre.
The original production ran in New York for 2,328 performances and the show has subsequently been revived four times since.
In London, “Man of La Mancha,” starring Keith Michell, first bowed in the West End on April 24, 1968 at the Piccadilly Theatre, where it played 253 performances. The 1972 film adaptation was headlined by Peter O’Toole, James Coco and Sophia Loren.
“Man of La Mancha” has played around the world, with productions in Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Irish, Japanese, Korean, Icelandic, Gujarati, Uzbek, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Serbian, Slovenian, Swahili, Finnish, Ukrainian and nine different Spanish dialects of the Spanish language.
Jeorganna Simoes is directing the RCLT musical version of “Man of La Mancha.” Asked why she chose it for her debut as director, she said, “This is telling my age. When I was in high school, it was a big deal. The song “The Impossible Dream,” played all the time on the radio and I saw the movie with Sophia Loren and Peter O’Toole and I loved it. I was probably 16 or 17 years old. I like that it has a message, that is like my art, too (Simoes is a painter). The message to look beyond what you see, to see the beauty in the world and he (Don Quixote) is a little bit like an anti-hero. He comes off crazy, but he has such a wonderful human spirit.
“The book is one of the best books in history. I just wanted to bring something that was adult, that had a message and had a good musical history. It has kind of adult humor, but it’s funny. If you really listen to the lines,” Simoes said.
Simoes said that she is very happy with the people she cast for the parts. “I think everybody fits to the roles. I have 17 characters, a lot of them play double roles. Cervantes pulls them out, he turns the prisoners of the inquisition into the characters for the story. That’s how it plays on Broadway. There it is played without intermission — we’ll have one. It’s just constant movement,” she said.
Simoes is an experienced actress at the local theaters. She is bringing her view as an actress into the directing of the musical. Unusual for a director, she gave the cast the script during the auditions to familiarize themselves with the story. She also had the stage set done to be ready by the time the first rehearsal took place.
“As an actress, I do not like going in while they are still building the set so they have to change the blocking (blocking means the director telling each actor where they are on stage in any scene). We had it done from day one.
“The biggest concern I had was cast changes,” Simoes said. “We had some. That makes it a little hard, but everybody rallied and we’re doing very well. In fact, Ty (Whatley), came in last month. I came in as Maria last week. I just didn’t have time to find somebody else. It is pretty daunting this time of year to promise three weeks and all this time, plus, it was summer and then kids started school.”
Simoes is especially happy about having Daniel Tisdale performing as Don Quixote. “He is a newbie on our stage, but Dan was on stage before — he is the minister, pastor of St. Marks,” she said. “Viridiana (Leon), she is absolutely perfect as Aldonza. You are going to be very happy. And then, Berkeley (Dittmann) is just funny. Everybody pictures Sancho Panza as fat, but I told him, just play it with your usual cuteness and funniness, and after the first time I saw him, I knew he would do it well.”
Leon is cast as fiery Aldonza, who Don Quixote thinks is his lady, his Dulcinea, despite her trying to convince him otherwise. “Growing up in Mexico, I knew Miguel de Cervantes and Don Quixote and the windmills and all of that,” Leon said with her soft Spanish accented voice. “It was always fascinating. He sees the good everywhere in people. I am so happy that I am joining them. This feels like a little family.
“They (RCLT) were looking for somebody with certain characteristics — Hispanic — this is a lady from Spain. I don’t know if that counted or not, but Jeorganna, the director, said that my personality came out. I sent her a video because I couldn’t come to audition that day, I was in Georgia visiting family. I sent her a couple of videos, one in English and one in Spanish. Then she called me and offered me the role.”
Leon has an impressive theater background in Mexico. “I was actually studying theater in Juarez at the National Academy of Actors. I used to do plays, sing, dance everywhere. My love for it, for the art was always there. The problem is when you have kids. This is not Broadway. You are here because you love art. It’s not money, this is more a hobby for us. It’s our life. We’re just talking to one of the cast members that my mom is always scolding me, ‘You are always going up and down, here and there, the radio (Leon works for a local radio station), the kids,’ — I do medical transportation services — and this. My mom said, ‘You are going to get crazy.’ I told her, ‘Mom, the theater is keeping me sane.’ The rest is what’s stressing me. This is my therapy.”
Asked if she has a message for our readers, Leon said, “This is a classic. We are actually targeting the whole family, but over 14 will be better. It has a strong concept. It’s about seeing the best everywhere; it’s about being the best yourself; dreaming the impossible dream; reaching the unreachable star. This is about changing yourself. You are not going to change the whole world, but you can change yourself and the way looking at the whole world. And this is what it is all about.
“Even Aldonza — which is her real name — she keeps on telling him, ‘No, that’s not me. You are wrong.’ He keeps on telling her, ‘You are, you are my lady.’ I am pretty sure that everybody coming out of here with something like that in their spirit, wanting to reach to unreachable star.”
“One thing I am hoping,” Simoes said, “I wanted a play that has a wider appeal. I liked this one, it’s a Spanish play and I am hoping it’ll bring in some people, some new audience that maybe hadn’t seen a play here. I watched plays since I was a kid. I am surprised when I meet adults in this town and they don’t know that there is a theater or have never been to a play. Tony and I a couple of times have gotten people to come to a play that has never seen one. They left and were enchanted with it because it is so different than going to the movies. The energy is so different. That is what I am hoping, to draw some people who wouldn’t have come before. This has humor, it has sexual innuendo, beautiful music and a lot of talented people.
Also cast are Maya Campuzano as Antonia, Jaron Morris as Dr. Carrasco, The Knight of the Mirrors and as Duke. Well-known thespian, Hugh Taylor is cast as innkeeper and captain of the Inquisition; Candience Runquist as Housekeeper, Randy Nolen as Padre and Anselmo; Anissa Segura as Fermia; Deona Santos is cast as barber and is also stage manager; Tony Simoes is cast as the governor, gypsy and he designed the RCLT set. Alleynnah Santos is cast as Tenorio, Anika Manzanares as one of the dancing horses and Zelia Santos as the other dancing horse. Emma Arzola, known as dancer in Folklorico, is cast as the gypsy dancer.
Kathy Cook is assistant director, musical director and in charge of costumes and props.
For more information, visit roswelltheatre.com or call 575-622-1982.