The story is unforgettable, the music legendary. But if you think you know all there is to know about “Man of La Mancha,” the crew and cast at Triad Stage might just change your mind.
The popular musical closes Triad Stage’s 2018-19 season and runs April 28-May 26.
Based on Cervantes’ 17th-century novel “Don Quixote,” the play “Man of La Mancha” premiered on Broadway in 1965 and introduced classic songs such as “Man of La Mancha (I, Don Quixote)” and “The Impossible Dream” to the musical canon.
“Man of La Mancha” is a play-within-a-play. In the original production, Cervantes, the author, has been thrown in prison during the Spanish Inquisition. So he and his manservant adopt the roles of Spanish knight Don Quixote and squire Sancho Panza and stage a play to entertain the rest of the prisoners.
But Triad Stage shifts the setting to a modern, dystopian environment. Sections of chain link fence surround the stage, creating a detention center.
Graham Stevens, who plays Cervantes/Don Quixote in the Triad Stage production, said, “I think the hope (of the modern setting) is to get to the heart of the show. That hasn’t changed.”
“The word ‘real’ gets brought up in rehearsal a lot,” said Sherz Aletaha,who portrays Aldonza, the barmaid inspired by Don Quixote’s idealism and kindness.
“It’s definitely a fresh take on it,” said DeMone, who plays Sancho in the production. “It’s not a glitzy production at all ... The audience won’t get comfortable in the familiar.”
The story and the music that generations of theater-goers love remain the same, however. Don Quixote still is foolishly misguided — or wonderfully optimistic, depending on your perspective. He still fails as a knight, is mocked by his detractors, and gets back up to try again.
Stevens said he first heard the songs from “Man of La Mancha” as a kid, when his parents would play the record from the show. But being cast as Don Quixote has made him reconsider the songs and really explore the lyrics, he said.
“I’m excited to sing these well-known songs. They’re well-known because they are absolutely beautiful,” Stevens said. But Aletaha, DeMone and Stevens all say that hearing these songs within the context of the play gives them new and greater meaning.
“These are really powerful and poignant songs,” DeMone said.
Aletaha said, “This story is essentially about hope. That’s something everyone can relate to watching this show.”
A number of special events are scheduled in conjunction with “Man of La Mancha,” including a behind-the-scenes conversation with the director and designers, audio-described and sign language-interpreted performances, a wine tasting and a book club.