Book by Dale Wasserman
Music by Mitch Leigh
Lyrics by Joe Darion
adapted from Don Quixote (a novel by Miquel de Cervantes)

INFO:

Opened at the ANTA Washington Square Theater    November 22, 1965    2,328 performances
Original Director: Albert Marre
Original Choreographer: Jack Cole
Original Producer: Albert W. Selden and Hal James
Original Leads: Cervantes: Richard Kiley Aldonza: Joan Diener Sancho: Irving Jacobson
Cast Size: Male: 6    Female: 3    Ensemble: 10-15, mostly men    Total Cast Size: 18-23
Orchestra: 18 (Can be done with reduced orchestration)
Published Script: Random House 0394406192
Production Rights: Tams Witmark
Recordings: The original Broadway with Kiley is very good. In 2012, Brian Stokes Mitchell starred in a revival on Broadway. Placido Domingo made a studio recording with an all-star cast. It’s all good, but the original is the best, I think.
Film: A poor film with Peter O’ Toole and Sophia Loren (?!) You can watch it and it does have some charms, but overall, not all that useful if you’re considering the show.
Other shows by the authors: No successful musicals
Awards: The 1966 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Performance by a Lead Actor in a Musical (Kiley), Best Direction (Marre), Best Score, Best Scenic Design (sets) (Howard Bay)

WHO SHOULD DO THIS SHOW:

A highly theatrical, creative, entertaining, emotionally satisfying show with a stunningly beautiful and memorable score. Man of La Mancha, based on the first truly successful western novel, has taken very lengthy (though fascinating) source material and pared it down into a theatrically viable and rewarding telling.

The music borders on operetta, and requires legitimately trained voices to pull off many of the roles. The set, a unit set, could be very difficult to execute, due to a single elements we’ll discuss later. But it can also be done very simply and inexpensively. Other technical values can be kept affordable. Probably best for colleges, some dinner theaters, stock companies, more advanced Little Theater groups, semi-pro and pro.

Be Warned:

You need serious voices to pull this show off, and actors to match those voices. All the nine principle performers, especially Cervantes and Aldonza, the Innkeeper, The Padre, Antonia and the House Keeper, must have truly legit voices. I mean just about opera-trained voices. If you can’t fill this demand, I would do another show.

THE STORY:

(Note- there is no act break, the musical is intended to be performed without one. That said, I’ll suggest a possible act break, necessary for dinner theater and such groups.)

We are in Spain, during the Spanish Inquisition. A dungeon where prisoners wait to appear before the Inquisition. Prisoners mill about, bored, hungry, scared. The guards bring in two new prisoners. One, a pudgy servant and the other, his “master,” an actor, writer, tax collector and failure named Miguel de Cervantes. The other prisoners gather around, and steal his possessions, a case filled with theatrical costumes and props. But he begs them not to steal his most precious possession-the manuscript to a novel he’s written, called “Don Quixote de la Mancha.” Desperate, he offers to defend himself by entertaining his “judges” with a telling of the story. Using make-up and costume pieces from the trunk he’s brought with him, Cervantes and his servant change before our eyes into Don Quixote and his servant, Sancho Panza. As the story begins, other characters are assumed by various prisoners.

Don Quixote is an old man who believes he is a knight (though there have been no knights at this time for 200 years,) meant to go out into the world and battle evil. (“I Am I, Don Quixote”) Immediately, he confronts his first foe, a giant! Sancho famously states that it’s really a windmill, but Quixote attacks and is thoroughly beaten. He is convinced that dark magic turned the giant to a windmill at the last moment. He then sees a “castle”, or to Panza, a filthy roadside Inn. Within, Aldonza, whore and servant at the Inn, is rudely approached for her services by several muleteers. She’ll sleep with anyone who pays, for to her, “It’s All The Same.” Upon entering the Inn and first seeing her, Quixote is convinced that Aldonza is a great a refined lady, the one he is meant to battle for, in her name…which to him is “Dulcinea.” Aldonza finds the old man upsetting, and is furious that he will not see her as she actually is.

Quixote is, in fact, a wealthy old man named Alonso Quijano, who has apparently lost his mind. His niece, Antonia, is very upset about his madness, as her fiance, a practical man and doctor named Corrasco, is now unsure he wants a madman in his family. They set off to find him with her housekeeper, each with their own agenda, to try and wean him from his madness. (“I’m Only Thinking of Him”) Back at the Inn, Quixote sends a missive (a letter of admiration) with Sancho, to his lady Aldonza. She does not know how to read, so he reads it to her, and again, she is upset. She asks Sancho why he follows the old man around and does his bidding. He can only answer that “I Like Him.” The Muleteers approach Aldonza again (“Little Bird, Little Bird”), make fun of the missive and demand servicing. She says she will provide, later.

Carrasco and the Padre, a family friend, arrive at the Inn to persuade Quijano to sanity, though the Padre is selfless, dubious, and lacking prejudice against “insanity”. They start their inquisition, and Carrasco is appalled at the depth of the man’s delusion. But they are interrupted by the approach of a barber (“Barber’s Song”). Quixote is convinced that the shaving basin the barber wears to ward the sun is a sacred and magical item, the “Golden Helmet of Mambrino,” and demands the man hand it over. (“Golden Helmet of Mambrino”) The rest of the Inn population participate in his lunacy, and worship the helmet (in jest).

Quixote realizes suddenly he’s never been knighted, and asks the Lord of the Castle (the Innkeeper) to knight him. The man agrees. Quixote says he will need to spend the night in prayer, a vigil, and decides that since the “castle chapel” is “under repair”, he shall do it in the Inn courtyard. The Padre and Carrasco quietly depart, having failed the first round. The Padre, though, is not convinced that Quixote’s vision of the world isn’t the superior one. (“To Each His Dulcinea”) Night falls, and Quixote stands in the courtyard, on vigil, and recites the creed of knighthood. Aldonza interrupts, furious that he will not see what is. He explains that his life is all about his quest. She doesn’t understand, so he explains. (“The Impossible Dream”) (NOTE – If an Intermission is required, place it at the end of this song, with Aldonza still and looking at him. Raise the lights for Act II with them in the same positions.)

Aldonza demands he see her as she is, just as Pedro the Muleteer arrives to demand her services, furious he’s kept her waiting. A fight ensues, Quixote defending his lady’s honor with the aid of Panza and Aldonza against the muleteers. The heroes are victorious. The Innkeeper demands Quixote leave, he wants his peaceful business back. Quixote reminds him of his promise, to knight him. The man does so. (“Hail, Knight Of The Woeful Countenance”) Aldonza is moved. Quixote insists on helping raise his defeated enemies from the ground, and Aldonza, fearing for his well-being, says she’ll take care of them. He leaves to his rest, and the Muleteers promptly beat and rape Aldonza. (“The Abduction”)

The story is interrupted by the entrance of the guards of the Inquisition. Cervantes fears they come for him, but they take another prisoner and depart. The Duke, who is “prosecuting” against Cervantes in this makeshift court, claims that Quixote the madman and Cervantes the poet are too similar…both men turn their backs on life. Cervantes claims they both take from life what pleases them, and sets the story again in motion.

Quixote and Panza are on their steeds, seeking for his “Dulcinea”, who Quixote is sure has vanished with high purpose. Sancho has other suspicions. They are approached by a band of prostitutes, whom Quixote sees as noble Muslim warriors. He dances with them, and they steal everything he has. (“Moorish Dance”) Quixote sheepishly returns to the Inn, each man offering the Innkeeper his idea of what has happened. Aldonza, beaten and degraded, furiously confronts Quixote and demand he go to a mad house. She insists that she is and has always been a kitchen slut, “Aldonza.” He sees only his Lady Dulcinea, which nearly drives her mad. At that moment, a mysterious group of men dressed as Knights confront Quixote. Their “master”, the “Knight of the Mirrors”, claims Quixote is a charlatan, and demands he look into the mirrors his men carry and see who he really is. Quixote is forced to comply, sees the old man he actually is, and collapses unconscious. Car5rasco, the “knight of the mirrors,” unveils himself…

But the tale is again interrupted, as the guards for the Inquisition enter and announce that they will soon collect Cervantes. The “judges” inform him that he has not made his case, and they plan to take his book. He is alarmed, as he got to the end of the story, and begs them to allow him to improvise an additional ending. They concede.

Quijano is dying, lying in his bed in his estate, his Niece and Carrasco nearby, his manservant lamenting quietly. Alone with his unconscious master, he tells him what’s been going on in the world. (“A Little Gossip”) Corrasco demands the man stop reminiscing about his time with Don Quixote, when Quijano awakens, offering smiling banter to his servant. Then, he asks to write his will, which is precisely what Antonia Corrasco were hoping would happen. Aldonza intrudes. She finds a dying old man and insist he is her lord, Don Quixote de La Mancha. As Corrasco and Antonia try to stop her, she begs him to remember. He claims that he did have strange dreams, but Aldonza insists it was all real, and starts singing his own creed, “The Impossible Dream,” (reprise) back to him. And he remembers. He climbs out of bed, insisting that his lady never kneel to him. He prepares to ride on to glory (“I Am I, Don Quixote” reprise), and the effort is too much for him. He dies, and the good Padre prays for his soul.

Back to the holding dungeon, as the Captain of the Guard comes for Cervantes. The leader of the prisoners points out that perhaps Cervantes and Don Quixote are brothers, as he hands the man his precious manuscript. Cervantes agrees. “God help us-we are both men of La Mancha.” As he is taken to trial and likely death, the prisoners sing to him in growing strength his creed of life, “The Impossible Dream.”

THE SONGS:

“I, Don Quixote”, “It’s All The Same”, “Dulcinea”, “I’m Only Thinking Of Him”, “I Like Him”; “Little Bird, Little Bird”, “Barber’s Song”,”Golden Helmet of Mambrino”, “To Each His Dulcinea”, “The Impossible Dream”, “The Combat”, “Hail, Knight of the Woeful Countenance”, “The Abduction”, “Moorish Dance”, “Aldonza”, “The Knight of the Mirrors”, “A Little Gossip”, “The Psalm”, “The Impossible Dream finale”

Hits include “The Impossible Dream”

MY OPINIONS:

As always, feel free to ignore my opinions and rating.  But don’t be shocked, then, if your life becomes one big, impossible nightmare.

I love this show, it ranks very high on my list of favorite musicals ever. It is one of the few musicals that can legitimately bring an audience to tears(at least this audience), while never sacrificing it’s sense of either humor or melody. The show has a deeply-felt message and expresses it powerfully in it’s one famous song, “The Impossible Dream”; that everyone has a dream, and that we each have the right to pursue that dream…even if we do not have the courage. The music is powerful, funny, and always beautiful, a true work of art. The lyrics are fine, if not as clever as they might have been. The lyrics sometimes work a little too hard for a laugh, and the strain can be felt by the actor and audience. The rhymes tend to be simplistic, though the thoughts contained in each line are complex, poetic and rich. The language overall is poetic enough to support the poetry of the philosophy of the show, and feels like it does belong. But occasionally, the lyrics feel like a lecture, though the music is sufficiently gorgeous that you probably won’t care. I think this is particularly true of “To Each, His Dulcinea,” and the hit song, “The Impossible Dream.” That said, the lyrics never hold the score or story back, so maybe they are better than I think (and I think them better than workable and better than average for Musical Theater). The script (book) communicates to us what is a very long and episodic tale in the original novel, in a firm, theatrical, economic manner that is remarkable and effective.

I think this is a show that many, many theaters should consider. It was done often in the 70s, less often in the 80s, and then seemed to largely vanish. (It did have a fine revival on Broadway in 2012.) I believe its vocal demands are too much for many companies, and that the quasi-operatic score may be a deterrent to producers who believe an audience won’t accept such clear-cut and unvarnished emotional and melodic expression. To which I can only say…Les Mis? Phantom of the Opera? And frankly, La Mancha is a FAR better show than either of those gruesomely overly-venerated mega-hits. (You can see what I have to say about them in their chapters.)

What’s more, shows today tend to be cagy about their message and their emotions, La Mancha wears its heart proudly on its sleeve of armor. What a breath of fresh air that is in today’s theater! If I were a producer, I believe I would embrace the strengths of this show and offer it to my audience.

Folks, there are reasons the audience for theater is no longer young! There are reasons our audience is shrinking. We are not giving the audience emotionally and intellectually rewarding experiences, the kind of shows that will make them happy they showed up, and make them long to go to another play. And La Mancha has the ability to be exactly that sort of experience. It may not be as “smart” as a Sondheim, or a Kander and Ebb show (to mention a few writers of musicals I admire, but I do believe are over-rated and in some ways harmful to the theater), but it has far more heart than most of those shows, and is generally more rewarding to watch and perform.

That said, finding the brilliant singing actors you will need for about five of the roles is no small task today. Singers aren’t trained in the same way as they were in the 60s, when this show first made its glorious debut. And even then, the kind of voices required to sing La Mancha were never common. You’ll run into the same casting problem with any operetta or operettas-like show today. Kismet, A Little Night Music, The Most Happy Fella, South Pacific, Carousel, and many other wonderful shows fall into this category. Hey, it’s not called musical theater for nothing…and you’ll notice that music comes first.

By the way, the word “quixotic,” which means “foolish, impractical, rashly lofty and over-romantic” was born with the character of Don Quixote. He is the father of the word and the prototype.

MY RATING: ** (An excellent show, well worth considering.)

PRODUCTION CONCERNS AND IDEAS:

DIFFICULTY OF MUSIC:

First, the music itself. The score is a cross between Flamenco and other Spanish forms, and theater music. As such, it is melodically wealthy, harmonically interesting in places, and often rhythmically challenging. Not a score for a novice Music Director to tackle, as the musical and vocal requirements could be difficult to fulfill. Your rehearsal pianist will need to be talented with both music and the handling of trained voices. This show can be done with a reduced orchestra. I would think the minimum might be piano/string bass/drums-percussion, guitar (a good one), 1 trumpet, and perhaps a keyboard for string pads and such. I wouldn’t go with much less than this. The full orchestration calls for 18, and is very well done. You’ll need players with good energy, there’s no intermission and lots of music.

As to voices:

Cervantes/Quixote is a serious baritone voice with a big belt, should be truly trained. You’re going to need an exceptional singing actor.

Aldonza is an alto with a big, growling, angry belt, but some real soprano top notes, too. Very touch vocal role. Again, really requires a trained voice. An exceptional singing actress.

Sancho is a character actor, tenor. The acting for this role is more important than the vocalise. That said, he sings with Cervantes, a duet to start the show, and will need to belt well and keep pitch. Not a role for a “non-singer,” it would be best in the hands of a reasonably trained voice.

The Innkeeper should be a lyric baritone, trained, big voice with a supple belt, capable of comic expression. Should be able to understudy Cervantes vocally.

The Padre is a lyric baritone, must have a beautiful, modulated voice. Trained.

Antonia, in a soprano, trained, nearly operatic voice but with a controlled vibrato.

The Housekeeper sings a duet with Antonia, an alto with a belt, has been cast with a “hooty” voice, a bit unpleasant, before. You do not want her to sound like Antonia for their number, but she should be able to sing without that quality at other times. Not necessarily a trained voice, but a capable one.

The Barber, tenor, character voice, but with a healthy belt and legit quality.

Dr. Carrasco is a baritone, fairly legit, big belt, trained.

The 3-5 muleteers you cast should all sing clearly, cleanly, on pitch. They will need to dance, too, so some compromise may be called for in casting.

Remaining roles should sing well. You’ll need beautiful ensemble singing.

DIFFICULTY OF DANCE, CHOREOGRAPHIC CONCERNS:
La Mancha is not really a dance show, but it has places where real dance is needed, and will require a choreographer. “It’s All The Same,” “”Little Bird, Little Bird,” “The Combat,”, “The Abduction”, “Moorish Dance”, “Aldonza”, all require actual dance. But it is restricted to the muleteers and Aldonza. Your choreographer is going to want to be instrumental in the casting of these roles. You will need to schedule some real rehearsal time to cover the choreography for these numbers.

Additionally, there should be movement, often intended to create a comic effect, in many of the smaller numbers, including “I, Don Quixote” (Cervantes and Sancho); “I’m Only Thinking Of Him” (Housekeeper, Antonia, Carrasco); “Golden Helmet of Mambrino” (Cervantes, Sancho, Barber, muleteers); “The Knight of the Woeful Countenance” (Innkeeper, Cervantes, Sancho); “The Knight of the Mirrors” (company). If your Director is not comfortable staging small musical numbers, then the Choreographer may well need to participate in creating some or all of these numbers, as well.

Your choreography needs to reflect the feel of the music. A choreographer unfamiliar with various Spanish forms such as Flamenco had best get familiar before first rehearsal, and I mean conversant. I suggest you take the dance requirements for this show seriously.

There is the additional complexity of two actors who play “horses” in much the same way as was later done in the play Equus, Warhorse, and the little-known but beautiful musical, Strider. Their movement as horses must be worked out well and convincingly, and your choreography may need to be involved in this procedure. In the original production several muleteers doubles in the horse roles, a good idea.

CASTING CONCERNS: (See vocal and movement concerns above.):

Cervantes/Quixote is a mature man (in his 40s at least, able to portray with theatrical panache an older but very vital man). The classic image of Quixote is tall, thin, almost emaciated. The actor should be tall and on the lean side. You’ll need a very strong actor, capable of comedy and pathos. The role can descend often into lecturing about the world and how it should be, and your actor (and Director) will need to actively work against this trend in the show, and find ways to make such moments into entertainment based on the character and his flaws. It will be important for us to see Cervantes in jail as a desperate, quick, creative man who has lived a very difficult life and is somewhere near the end of it. He is afraid, and afraid to have others know he is afraid. A contemporary of Shakespeare (though they obviously never met), he saw himself as an actor and playwright, rather than as a novelist. (His great claim to immortality is the novel this musical is based on.) He is a great story-teller, involving and involved. As Quixote, he must seem vital but brittle, ambitious but in a manner that is not self-involved, adventurous in a foolish but glorious way, chivalrous but impatient. We must fall in love with this man, and wish we had a little of his quality in ourselves. He is altogether human. To the question, is “Don Quixote” mad? Well, he sees giants where we see windmills, and in that sense, he is certainly out of touch with reality. But what he sees himself as is a matter between he, himself and his maker, and the audience is taught to respect this-and that is a very big thing! More, he sees others almost invariably as better, as more than they are. Those who accept some part of his vision for themselves find their lives improved and enlarged. So his vision of others such as Aldonza (Dulcinea) and Sancho has real power, at least to those who buy in. His idea of the world is probably finer and more rewarding than ours. And the audience, by the end of the show, should be considering this fact. The most important thing about this role-if you can’t cast it very, very well with a remarkable singing actor, don’t do this show.  Race isn’t an issue, anything can work, though Asian may be tough to explain in Spain.

Aldonza is a mature woman (30s). She must be at least somewhat sexy and sexual, as that’s where her livelihood comes. Traditionally she’s cast dark, buxom, somewhat exotic and entirely a woman, if not a lady. But she transitions into a lady of sorts at the end. The actress must have a significant range. She must go from brutally pessimistic to a nearly beatific state of grace at the end of the play. Her transition is the same one we hope the audience will make, in a lesser form. It must be a real, felt, honest transition, and this is no small task for the actress. The character is used to surviving not so much by her wits, but rather by terrifying the world around her with her rage, her violence, and her sexual prowess. (The movie cast Sophia Loren, which was not a terrible thought. But she could in no way sing the role.) But there must be a longing within her, though deeply buried and thoroughly hidden, to have somehow lived a better life, and it’s this rejected aspect of her personality that slowly, finally responds to Quixote. It would in no way be safe for her to ever reveal this part of herself, given her environment. So it requires a genuine act of courage when she finally does so. Again, if you can’t cast this role well, do another show.  Race generally not an issue,. with Asian again being questionable.

Sancho is a character actor, 40s-50s, tenor. Comic relief. Pudgy, afraid of everything in the world. But in spite of his own self-interest, dedicated to Don Quixote, a true and loyal (if exasperated) friend, even a partner. He certainly “enables” Quixote’s “insanity,” even as he complains about it, or attempts judiciously to point it out. Perhaps he does this because the man is his source of income, his livelihood. But that is only where it begins for Sancho. He is honestly moved by Quixote at times, and finds himself caught up. Perhaps he berates himself later for his gullibility, but there is seemingly no cure. A good man, reasonably honest, a family man.  Race generally not an issue,. with Asian again being questionable.

The Innkeeper should be mature, in his 30s-50s. Harried, overworked, but deeply religious in his own way, he accepts Quixote as insane and, hence, a child of God, to be protected. Charitable in spite of himself which such as Quixote. A good comic actor is required, capable of self-deprecation.

The Padre could be anywhere from 20-60 in age. A calm man, accepting, tending away from making judgments about his fellow men. Sweet-natured, a poet at heart. Perhaps it is that poet who relates to and understands Quixote.

Antonia, in her 20s-30s, Quixote’s heir. Should be fair, young, self-involved.

The Housekeeper should be noticeably older and broader than Antonia. If she is unappealing physically then it’s funnier when she fears Quixote’s advances. Comic actress.

The Barber, any adult age, comic actor, perhaps a bit of a nebish.

Dr. Carrasco is the bad guy, As “the Duke,” he takes the place of hostile inquisitor, intending Cervantes nothing but harm. He sees himself as an utter realist, and despises illusion and “dreams,” making him Cervantes’ opposite instantly. Intellectual, unrealistically pessimistic. As Carrasco, he is only interested in Antonia’s potential wealth, and is pleased when Cervantes dies in the story.

The 3-5 muleteers should come in different ages and sizes. Don’t make them all young, or good looking. Aldonza will sleep with anyone who can pay, make that clear. Usually this is cast with handsome, scruffy young men. But handsome, scruffy young man don’t generally need to pay for sex, because they’re handsome and scruffy and young. Cast this smarter than others do.

SETS:
There is only one set, a unit set. We are in a dungeon in Spain, prisoners awaiting trail by the Spanish Inquisition. The original Broadway set, designed by Howard Bay, famously had a massive drawbridge that lowered from the ceiling of the set, a staircase leading down to the dungeon, and then raised back up again when not in use! It also made use of a trap door leading “down” to an even lower dungeon. All of this provided the audience the feeling of being trapped, without escape, truly in a dungeon. And that is certainly the effect you will wish to create with the set. The set also had a well placed to one side (presumably with a bucket), benches and chairs, a table or two. The light-weight but strong furniture was moved around and used to create the various locations in Cervantes’ story. (I assume, for instance, that two benches became his death bed at the end, etc.)

It is unlikely that, unless your stage is massive and you have great resources, you can do a descending staircase of this sort. Apparently solid walls with an apparently solid wooden or gated entrance will suffice for most theaters, though it certainly isn’t as theatrically amazing as seeing a massive staircase descend on ropes. This is a fine show for a theater that does not have much in the way of flies or wings, you won’t need them.

The one set should feel like a dungeon. It should consist of cold stone and wood. There is a problem with this in that you’re doing a musical, and your set will be dark. Most of the stage should, accordingly, be bare, so that it can be filled with the color of costumes and props that are a part of Cervantes’ tale. When we are in prison and not enacting Quixote’s life, the feel will be sterile, cold, isolated, imprisoned, filled with shadows and odd edges, threatening. But that feel needs to change as we enter into Cervantes’ imagination, and you’ll use a generally bare stage as the canvas for that change. The bulk of the flip into fantasy will need to be accomplished by costuming, props, lighting, and the fact that almost all the music takes place during the story-telling.

As a Set Designer, you should look for any way you might assist this change. Perhaps colorful flags and banners could drop from the ceiling when he approaches a “castle” that is in fact an Inn. A backdrop could be dropped for the Inn, stylized, with colors and shapes that mark it as a fantasy. Almost the entire fantasy takes place in the Inn, and that is a large part of the show, so do some thinking about how you want to make this clearly not reality, and workable in terms of staying out of the way of dance and action. Whatever you do, it must be able to vanish at a moment’s notice, in a subtle manner that does not draw attention to itself.

COSTUMES:
The Spanish Inquisition. This is a specific moment and location in history, with specific dress. The prisoners that comprise the bulk of the cast are probably poor, and Christians, though there could be some heretical aristocrats among them, such as “The Duke,” who seems educated. (Strangely, the Spanish Inquisition did not inquire into Jews or Muslims, just people they judged to be lapsed Christians, particularly Christians who had at one time been Jewish or Islamic. They found other ways of suppressing Jews and Muslims.) The clothing should be period appropriate, but singing and dancing requirements will limit the frills and tightness of the clothing.

The clothing pulled from Cervantes’ trunks, the clothes for characters in his story, do NOT need to be (nor should they be) dark, grim, colorless. They should be a contrast to the drudgery of prison. They can even be a bit surreal in design, in brightness, in purpose. They are a part of the imagination of Cervantes. This great change between the “real” world of the Inquisition and its prison, and Cervantes’ vital and creative imaginings, does not seem to me to have been well-explored or exploited by many productions in the past. Yet I think this may be the greatest opportunity to experiment, create, have fun, and build life into a production of La Mancha.

You will need to dress several cast members as guards employed by the Inquisition. Their clothing will have more color than the prisoners. They are “free.” The Padre is a simple representative of Mother Church (Catholic), and must look the part. Carassco wears the hat and robe of an intellectual.

Finally, the horses. Look at photos (or film is available) of how this was done for stage versions of Equus, Warhorse, The Lion King, and Strider, as well as for this show. It has been creatively and effectively done as a mix of costuming and puppetry, and offers a lovely opportunity to create a special effect.

Costuming this show will not be simple, especially if you go the fantasy route within his story-telling, Start early and coordinate closely with your Director, Choreographer, Set Designer and Make-Up.

PROPS:
Cervantes has a case he carries with his theatrical paraphernalia. As mentioned above, these provide an opportunity to get some vibrant color and theatrical life into the visual proceedings. Quixote will need a “lance,” which is rapidly replaced by a tree branch. He’ll need a shield, which might be a pot top of some sort. You’ll need “pewter” or otherwise appropriate cups and plates for the Inn, as well as pots and pans for Aldonza to hurl at the world. There is the missive the Don sends his fair lady, Dulcinea (Aldonza). The all-important mirrors that destroy the Don’s illusions will need to be ornamented, light enough to carry easily, and there must be at least three of them. A prayer book, a Bible or two that look period, will be needed. Most of this can be rented from almost any prop shop.

Cervantes needs his manuscript of his great novel, the one thing he holds of value. You can choose to make this package plain and uninteresting. But it is the doorway into his mind, his imagination. It might be interesting to have the package be out of the ordinary in perhaps some subtle way.

All in all, not the hardest show to work on. Few if any expendables are required.

LIGHTING:
There are two overall looks to get right. One is the dungeon, the other, the world of Cervantes’ imagination. One is filled with shadows and a sense of perpetual night. The other takes place under the sun and moon in a land filled with brave deeds. One seems to belong to a dark straight play, one without much hope or humor. The other, pure Musical Comedy. Comic numbers should be lit completely and warmly. Romantic ballads should carry the appropriate mood, but never be allowed to grow gray or have a physical relationship to the dungeon. I’d consider saturated, rich colors for the fantasy sequences.

The famed giant that turns into a windmill offers an opportunity for a special, perhaps a moving gobo of the windmill, it’s arms turning, cast on the floor of against a wall? Yet another effect you may be asked to do is the descending staircase, in which case, you’ll need to light the floor above from which the guards move down into the dark dungeon. Perhaps a single, very bright and intense ungelled lamp would create a blinding effect. Also, you may have a trap door leading into a lower dungeon. You should light that from below, as if there are people down there. They won’t need a lot of light. They can suffer.

Here’s a possible and interesting effect. Late in Act II, when Cervantes is in bed, dying, light his face without much life. When Quixote is “resurrected” within Cervantes and he recalls Aldonza, gradually bring up the light, focused largely on his face, as if the spirit grows within the man.

Man of La Mancha is a very creative show. As Lighting Director, you could place numerous and interesting effects throughout. And get yourself a computerized board, there will be many cues. A good show for smart lights, if they can be made to turn silently. (You could turn them while music plays…)

MAKE-UP:
All the actors except the guards above are prisoners. Lighting will be subdued, shadows, gray. This might successfully hide subtle fantasy make-up, so that your actors are made-up for the Don Quixote sequences, the bulk of the action. It’s worth an experiment during rehearsals to find out. After all, you will not have an opportunity to redo their make-up once the action starts, it is fluid, without breaks, and there is no intermission. Have a more ordinary, less made-up plan B in mind, though, in case fantasy make-up can be seen too easily in the dungeon and is ruinous of the effect the Director is creating.

Your Cervantes makes himself up to play the knight errant, and he does so in front of the audience. You may need to work with him during rehearsal so that what he does ties into your overall make-up approach.

Aldonza’s make-up can slowly change from that of a whore to that of a person looking for a better life, a better world. Again, make-up can be used to help illustrate this critical transition in the play. You can also show her bruised and beaten after the rape.

KEY PERSONNEL (The ones you MUST get right.):
Director, Music Director, Choreographer, Set Designer, Cervantes, Aldonza.

MY THOUGHTS:
This is a wonderful show. The cast size is not enormous, though it isn’t small. This is often considered to be a “mid-sized” show. It is a relatively easy show from the standpoint of costumes, sets, and other technical values. But your singing actors must be superb, particularly the leads. Your musicians will need to be able to effectively communicate the unique qualities of the score. In short, this show will only work if it’s done well. If the audience is allowed to escape from its emotional appeal, it is likely they will feel that the show is preachy and a bit artificial. This must not be allowed to happen. The designers and performers must be on the same page on this, and treat the show as special and worthy, a musical with a wonderful, empowering message worth breaking one’s back over. Then, you may find you have on your hands a production that is magical.