The Union Recorder

Columns

July 7, 2014

CURTAIN CALL: 'Man of La Mancha' comes to the stage next month

MILLEDGEVILLE — “Hail, knight of the woeful countenance! Wherever you go, people will know, Of the glorious deeds of the knight of the woeful countenance!”

Ah, when you are knighted with a title like “Knight of the Woeful Countenance,” you just know great things are on the horizon.

And that is indeed true, as the Milledgeville Players are preparing for their summer musical. “Man of La Mancha.”

This classic tale of the “mad knight” will be presented in rip-roaring Russell Auditorium Aug. 7 through 10. The Thursday, Friday and Saturday shows will have Cervantes transforming himself into Don Quixote starting at 8 p.m., while the lunging at windmills will commence at 2 p.m. for the Sunday matinee.

The story takes place in the late 16th century, where Miguel de Cervantes has been thrown into a dungeon by the Spanish Inquisition. Cervantes has brought all his possessions with him, which are quickly claimed by his fellow prisoners.

Cervantes pleads that a particular manuscript not be burned and he asks to be allowed to present a defense, and that defense will be a play acted out by him and all the prisoners. Cervantes, using  costumes and makeup in the trunk containing his possessions, quickly turns himself into Alonso Quijana, an old man who has read so much of chivalry and gallant knights that he now believes he is one of the noblest of all, the great Don Quixote de La Mancha, and sets out to find adventures with his squire, Sancho Panza.

During the ensuing "play within a play,” Quixote takes on a horrible ogre, which is actually the infamous windmill that many people associate with the story of Don Quixote, fights for the virtue of a serving wench who he sees as an innocent maiden, retrieves a magical helmet from a befuddled barber, and mounts a quest to conquer the Great Enchanter.

The actual production of “Man of La Mancha” has a rather interesting history to it. It is ultimately based on Miguel de Cervantes's 17th century tale, “Don Quixote.”

Skip forward to 1959. Dale Wasserman wrote a non-musical teleplay that year based on the classic story. The original broadcast starred Lee J. Cobb, Colleen Dewhurst and Eli Wallach, who just passed away a couple of weeks ago.

Wasserman called his adaptation “Man of La Mancha.” However, CBS and the DuPont Corporation disliked that title, thinking audiences wouldn't understand it. A new title, “I Don Quixote” was chosen, the show was broadcast as part of the “DuPont Show of the Month” series, and was a critical and commercial success.

Several years later, Wasserman was asked about turning his teleplay into a musical for possible production on Broadway. Working with Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion, a score was created and the play debuted off-Broadway in early 1965.

By late 1965, the play had found a home and in 1966, it pretty much swept all the major Tony awards for a musical. Though Rex Harrison was originally cast as Cervantes/Don Quixote, he never made it to the stage. He was replaced early on by Richard Kiley, and the role made him one of Broadway's major musical stars.

Over the years, many actors have played the part of Don Quixote, including Hal Linden and Robert Goulet. In a 1992 revival on Broadway, Raul Julia played the part, with Sheena Easton playing the lead female character, the serving wench Aldonza.

Fascinating history, is it not?

My next column will detail some of the fine folks at work on stage and behind the scenes for the upcoming Milledgeville Players production.

But why wait? Mark your calendars, pee-pads, “not as smart as you think” phones, or whatever device you use to keep track of the Zodiac, for Aug. 7 through 10.

Tickets are $15 for general admission and are available in advance by going to the Players' website at www.milledgevilleplayers.org. You can also give a call to the "impossible dream hotline" at 478-314-4054 to place your ticket order.

Students with a current valid ID will be able to get in for $10 but those tickets can only be purchased at the door for each performance.

OK, let me quickly mention something scheduled for tomorrow [Wednesday] during the late morning/early afternoon.

“Game Day” is taking place in the Legislative Chambers of the Old Capital Building on the GMC campus. This represents a major fundraiser for Georgia's Old Capital Museum.

It is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and all sorts of games are scheduled to be available, including such faves as canasta, bridge, cribbage, pinochle, and of course, Mahjong.

That's my favorite to pronounce out loud, by the way. Try it - wasn't that fun?

It's $100 for a table of four or $25 per person. Lunch is provided.

I would suggest giving a call over to Georgia's Old Capital Museum at 478-453-1803 for more information or to make reservations.

Our opening lyrics take place about two-thirds through the play when Don Quixote is finally knighted. Of course, it's an Innkeeper who performs the ceremony, but Quixote sees him as a lord of the manor.

It is noted that it is customary to grant a new knight an added name. After a bit of reflection, the Innkeeper comes up with “Knight of the Woeful Countenance.”

“Oh valorous knight, go and fight for the right, and battle all villains that be. But oh, when you do, what will happen to you, Thank God, I won't be there to see.”

Catch you on the flip side.

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