The Student Musical Theater Company (SMuTCo.) production of Dale Wasserman’s Man of La Mancha will run Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. in Brehmer Theater. The Colgate performance, directed by sophomore Xand Lourenco, is an ambitious undertaking, the product of many intense months in planning. Laurenco first proposed that the renowned musical be performed on the Colgate stage last spring, but waited until the fall term for the idea to be realized.
The story of La Mancha revolves around Don Quixote, Cervantes’s famously idealistic character. As the poet Cervantes awaits his sentence in prison, he acts out the story of Don Quixote, as written in his novel, in his own defense. A quixotic and seemingly delusional man, Don Quixote travels in the Spanish countryside with companion Sancho believing that he is a knight-hundreds of years after knights’ actual existence. This peculiar premise leads to misunderstandings and miscommunications among the characters, bringing both comedy and emotion to the stage.
“The musical is about life,” says Laurenco. “It has its mishaps and you come out of it confused. You don’t know what to think. It’s about idealism.”
The most striking aspect of La Mancha is how easy it is to empathize with its characters. First-years Alex Sklyar and Tessa Drake play the unrelentingly entertaining duo of Quixote and Sancho. Sklyar portrays the gallant Quixote-tall, frazzled and quick-contrasting perfectly with Drake’s overly dependent character Sancho.
The musical is cast with exceptional voices, from Quixote and Sancho to Aldonza, Quixote’s love interest (first-year Lindsey Simpson), Padre (senior Vincent Macri), Governor and Innkeeper (first-year Peter Larson) and Barber (first-year Stephen Naidu). The pit, directed by senior John Yao, does justice to Mitch Leigh’s famed score, as do the actors to Joe Darion’s lyrics.
“The biggest challenge is the small size of our cast. It is difficult to put on a powerful show like Man of La Mancha and actually get the full sound that comes with a large cast. However, I feel that our cast has come together amazingly and we use each other to get that full powerful feeling,” Naidu, who plays Barber, said.
The overall performance is fluid, with convincing, yet not distracting, costumes and stage design. It does not pretend to be a bells and whistles production; it is easy to hear the actors drag the props on and off stage, a realistic transition that lends itself to the double story.
“One thing that stands out to me in this production,” junior Producer Anne Slotnick says, “is how much it takes the audience to a completely new and different place. This musical really is quite a tale and the actors have done a great job creating the world of Don Quixote and bringing the audience to that world.”
Lourenco and Naidu agree that the final scene in the play is their favorite, a particularly poignant culmination of the plot and La Mancha’s message. Lourenco says, “The final scene is the pinnacle. I feel the most emotion at the last scene. It’s really beautiful and the cast got it down pat!”
One other scene of note is the “Mirror Scene” in which characters dressed in silver armor – spray-painted plastic- dramatically flood the stage and force the romantic Quixote to confront reality. A second is the “Abduction Scene” in which Aldonza is overpowered by a group of men and fighting ensues.
Man of La Mancha is an impressive Colgate production that is worth anyone’s time to attend.