To dream the impossible dream, the first line in the main song of Man of La Mancha is something in which many of us are guilty. When we reach too high for the stars, we set ourselves up for disappointment. It’s inspiring and devastating. The Princeton Festival brings Man of La Mancha to the Lewis Center for the Arts in the Matthews Acting Studio at Princeton University. This five-time Tony Award-winning musical by Dale Wasserman is based on Miguel de Cervantes’ play Don Quixote.
The main character, Cervantes, along with his manservant and their fellow prisoners await their hearings with the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, also known as the Spanish Inquisition. They have been charged with foreclosing on a monastery. The prisoners set up a mock trial and if found guilty, Cervantes must relinquish all of his possessions. He agrees with the exception of a manuscript. In his defense, Cervantes asks for all prisoners to act out his play of a mad knight named Don Quixote. The Governor (Patrick James) of the group accepts his proposal and the adventure begins.
Cervantes/Don Quixote played by Jess Malgieri, might be recognized as last year’s Count Carl-Magnus from The Princeton Festival’s A Little Night Music. Malgieri has a wonderful baritone voice with good weight. In the lead role, he is able to seamlessly transition us from back and forth between Cervantes and Don Quixote and he has a great presence on stage.
Sandra Marante is a strong Aldonza/Dulcinea. This role can be challenging and Marante’s powerful performance takes us through the wild and abrasive side of Aldonza to Dulcinea, the love interest of Don Quixote. Her soprano voice is rich and she will captivate you.
Jordan Bunshaft is sheer perfection as Sancho Panza, the manservant. Bunshaft really brings the comedy relief. His gestures and facial expressions will keep you entertained throughout the performance. He steals a few scenes with his effervescent personality.
Two local performers are included in this production – twins to be exact. Patrick and Stephen Schultz play the Inquisition guards. These are not speaking roles; however, it’s nice to see two PHS ’13 alumni on stage.
The seating is placed around the performance area. Actors get within reach of the audience, which is very engaging. There is no assigned seating, so arrive early and choose a seat in the front row against the longest wall if you’d like to be up close and personal. The 16th-century costumes are amazing, including the armor. Now, here’s where the fun begins. The set design is sparse and gritty. The cast uses the limited props to constantly reconfigure them to suit the scene keeping things fresh. Director Michael Dean Morgan takes us into the mind of the protagonist and allows us to use our imaginations a bit. A live orchestra plays the music above the audience, which gives it a nice resonance. Live music is a wonderful addition and the sound is full and satisfying. Overall, Man of La Mancha is another strong musical production from The Princeton Festival. It’s enchanting and refreshing!
Run time is approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes without an intermission and while the air conditioning is on full blast, the heat from lighting, etc. seems to put a strain on the climate control, so dress lightly for the performance. There is some sexual content that may not be suitable for children under 12 years-old. Very few tickets are available, so act now to secure a seat. Tickets range from $40 – $50 and can be purchased online at McCarter Theatre’s website, at the McCarter box office at 91 University Place in Princeton or by calling (609) 258-2787.
June 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24 at 8:00 PM
Sunday matinées – June 11, 18, 25 at 4:00 PM
Saturday matinée – June 24 at 3:00 PM
Parking: Princeton University Lot 10 on William Street, directly behind Thomas Sweet (Nassau Street), is open to the public on weekday evenings and weekends.