Paul Schoefler, and cast Photos by John Vecchiolla
By Eugene Paul
an apocryphal story that in 1960, Dale Wasserman, who wrote his non-musical
teleplay “I,Don Quixote”, went to a fortune teller to advise him about allowing
director Albert Marre to develop it into a musical for the stage. The fortune
teller told him it would be hugely successful, that his life would never be the
same. Since then, there have been over ten thousand productions of Man of La
Mancha, over three hundred productions a year currently. Here, in
Westchester, this beloved musical is the 192nd production of Bill
Stutler and Bob Fink’s famed dinner theatre and a roaring audience pleaser.
more curious is that when Marre brought Mitch Leigh aboard to write the music,
they were going to try something nobody had tried before: to build a musical
within a straight play, to keep the play for its strength, which blended the
great Cervantes with his greatest creation, Don Quixote, the mad, idealistic
dreamer until they became one. Leigh composed a full evening’s music which
also flew in the face of musicals because the score was linked, melody to
melody, rhythm to rhythm, instead of creating a variety of rhythms and songs as
is generally believed to be far more likely to keep an audience happy.
worked. Audiences loved the mad musical of Don Quixote precisely because his
pure vision tied the play and the musical together and the music flowed into
his pure, mad vision, culminating in Don Quixote’s/Cervantes’s greatest aria,
“To Dream the Impossible Dream”. It has become the yearning voice of
generations, even stronger in this darkening world. When, at the beginning,
Alonso Quinjuana, a strolling vagabond (stalwart, golden voiced Paul Schoefler)
is thrown into a dungeon to await his fate, to save himself and his assistant,
Sancho Panza (endearing Gary Marachek) from the depredations of the other
prisoners, he offers to entertain them by telling them of his adventures.
they watch as he becomes the mad, elderly, chivalrous dreamer, Don Quixote, and
even as they continue at first to mock him and abuse him, they find themselves
more and more involved, fascinated. His music envelops them and us. His dream
world changes them.
Michelle Dawson (Aldonza) and Gary Marachek (Sancho)
perform “The Missive”
he meets the used, abused whore, Aldonza (lovely Michelle Dawson) and declares
her the lady Dulcinea of his visions, the enchantment never leaves her. And we
are swept away by the music. When Paul Schoefler, as Don Quixote, soars,
transported in his vision, singing “Man of La Mancha”, it is transporting for
the prisoners. They accept him, carried away by his story telling and by the
music. And so are we.
describing his adventures, he ends up at a castle. Of course, it is not a
castle, it is only an inn, but the innkeeper ( excellent, strapping Geoff
Belliston) is so beguiled by being mistaken as the lord of a castle he caters
to Don Quixote’s quixotic vision, at least of himself, and allows him and his
henchman to stay. His kindness is not shared by everyone, certainly not his
wife ( Corinne Scott).
Paul Schoeffler (Don Quixote) and ensemble in “The Golden Helmet
a barber (David Cantor) comes to sell his shaving services to anyone who can
afford to buy, Don Quixote is transfixed by the barber’s brass shaving basin.
He sees it as “The Golden Helmet of Mambrino” almost a sacred object to him..
He feels honored to be able to wear it. The others howl with laughter.
David Wasson has woven together a complete tapestry of a show, his dances fully
integrated into the Cervantes story, the brutal, balletic rape of Aldonza by
the muleteers one of the show’s highlights. Throughout, he sets a tone for the
whole company as they become part of Don Quixote’s reality, his search for his
ideals, and Paul Schoefler as Quixote stays true to the dream, his performance
the core around which the show is built. The sets and costumes by Michael
Bottari and Ronald Case fulfill Director Wasson’s focus on casting a spell and
his entire, inspired company responds.
Leigh never wrote another musical which came even close to the enormous success
that Man of La Mancha was and is. It is the peak achievement as well
for everyone connected in its creation. That’s enough. That’s achieving an
impossible dream. A fortune teller’s dream.
of La Mancha.
At the Westchester Broadway Theatre, 1 Broadway Plaza, Elmsford, NY 10523.
Tickets:$59-$84 Dinner and show. 914-592-2225. Thru May 1.