by Morey Storck
Man of La Mancha, a musical masterpiece evoking a world not as it is, but as it ought to be, is being presented at the Westchester Broadway Theatre for the entire month of April. It is an exceptional production, with a book by Dale Wasserman, music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion.. One need only to hear the immensely powerful and poetic “The Impossible Dream” to understand and appreciate the potency of this musical play.
The widely acclaimed 1965 Broadway production won 5 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score, Best Actor in a musical, Best Director of a musical and Best Scenic Design. It had a run of 2,328 performances.
Man of La Mancha is, essentially, a musical within a play. It was adapted from Dale Wasserman’s non-musical 1959 teleplay I, Don Quixote. The setting is a prison dungeon, stark and foreboding with few props or additional scenery to break the dismal atmosphere. The story starts with Cervantes (Paul Schoeffler), himself, who is arrested during the Spanish Inquisition. He is thrown into jail with his loyal manservant, Sancho Panza. During a heated brawl with the other prisoners over his remaining belongings, he strikes a bargain that he can keep possession of certain precious manuscripts if he can show that they are of no use or value to them. At that point, with a few props and costumes from his trunk and some simple theatre make-up, he transforms himself into the imaginary Don Quixote with “I, Don Quixote, The Lord of La Mancha”, which Schoeffler delivers in a powerful, commanding voice. He absolutely dominates the stage.
Imagination continues and the “quest” (within the confines of the prison) begins. The famous windmill which Quixote believes to be a disguise of his arch-enemy, the Enchanter, is discovered and battled. From there he comes upon a wayside inn which he believes to be a castle. He meets Aldonza (Michelle Dawson) imagining her to be Dulcinea and announces that all his bold deeds will be dedicated to her. He conveys his admiration with the stunning ballad “Dulcinea”, beautifully sung by Paul Schoeffler.
There follows a series of fanciful events in Don Quixote’s travels that end the imagined “quest”, as you probably know from your early English Literature classes. However, we would be remiss not to mention a few more outstanding performances. We get to enjoy the lovely Michelle Dawson and her warm, sometimes firey, yet always expressive voice, first with the sardonic “It’s All The Same”, then the plaintive “What Does He Want Of Me?” and her vivid rendition of Aldonza. Gary Marachek as Sancho Panza, provides marvelous comic relief throughout the show, particularly with “The Missive”, “I Really Like Him” and “A Little Gossip”. And two more: David Cantor as the Barber, singing “The Barber’s Song” after Quixote takes his shaving basin to be his fabled helmet; and Geoff Belliston as the bemused Innkeeper who dubs Don Quixote “The Knight of the Woeful Countenance”. And, yes, one more is the delightful “Little Bird, Little Bird”, a little folk song sung by the Muleteers.
But above it all, the fantasy, folly, chivalry and imagination, billow the towering sails of “The Impossible Dream” as delivered by the superb voice and presence of Paul Schoeffler. Get your tickets now! Available at the box office, or by calling 914-592-2222.