The Stage: Man of la Mancha opens this Friday

Man of La Mancha
The original 1965 production of Man of La Mancha won five Tony Awards — photo by Artotem

Man of La Mancha

Iowa City Community Theatre — April 25-27 and May 2-4 ($10-$18)

In their production of Man of La Mancha, the Iowa City Community Theatre will turn the Johnson County Fairgrounds into 16th-century Spain for this musical adaptation of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Since it first appeared on Broadway in 1965, this tale of a knightly dreamer has captured the hearts of the world. It originally ran for 2,328 performances, has had four Broadway revivals, a movie adaptation and the play has been translated into over 16 languages.

Considered by many to be one of the greatest books ever written, the original story concerns an older man who decides to become a knight like the ones he has read about in books. With his sidekick Sancho Panza, he sets off to perform imaginary quests in order to win the heart of his lady love, putting a romantic gloss on his bleak surroundings.

The musical adds a twist to the original novel, presenting it as a play-within-a-play performed by Cervantes as he and a servant are confined in prison. The main role of Cervantes/Don Quixote has been played by such theatrical luminaries as Richard Kiley, Raul Julia, Hal Linden, Robert Goulet—and Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) in one memorable episode of Quantum Leap.

After a career of writing incidental music for some forgettable comedies, the music of Man of La Mancha was composer Mitch Leigh’s only Broadway triumph. Recently, in March, Leigh passed away, and there’s no better way to honor his memory than to see this musical, in which a man dares to imagine something greater out of life.

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