Probably the most interesting conceit in this version of Man of La Mancha as produced by Theatre Under the Stars is that all the actors stay on stage the whole time throughout the play. They're prisoners of the Spanish Inquisition after all.
"Once you were arrested there wasn't much chance you'd get out. This went on for hundreds of years; it wasn't just a flash in the pan."says TUTS Artistic Director Bruce Lumpkin who is also directing and who wants to make it as realistic as possible (Props are another concern; no one will be pulling a gigantic horse head out of his back pocket, he vows.)
"Human beings have a tendency to survive and their survival skills cause them to create families and to create living conditions in the situations they have at hand. And when you take away every bit of dignity from a human being then they do become tribal and animalistic. The music and the choreography and the staging we're trying to keep in that world," Lumpkin added.
Framed as a play within a play - the real life Cervantes is imprisoned by the Inquisition and acts out the story of his literary creation Don Quixote before the other prisoners, this musical has at least one song everyone knows ("To Dream the Impossible Dream") and several others that fail the happy-happy test.
Lumpkin's wife, Michelle Gaudette, who is choreographing the musical (they last worked together on Miss Saigon at TUTS), has brought in dancers from Los Angeles, New York and Houston and says there will be a flamenco tone to the proceedings.
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"This show you really have to have the right chemistry and combination of people because they're going to sit on stage the entire night together," Gaudette said.
The cast is filled with Broadway performers. For example: Paul Schoeffler (Rock of Ages, Beauty and the Beast, Peter Pan, Nine and Victor/Victoria all on Broadway) will play Don Quixote. Michelle DeJean (Broadway's Chicago and national tours of Jesus Christ Superstar, West Side Story and Oliver!) plays the bar maid Aldonza.
Josh Lamon ( Broadway: Elf: The Musical, Into the Woods and Hair) plays Sancho Panza. He also appeared in the national tours of Wicked and Hair, which earned him the Helen Hayes Award Outstanding Supporting Actor in 2011. Tom Robbins (Broadway: Newsies The Musical, The Lion King and Once Upon a Mattress) plays the Innkeeper.
Man of La Mancha runs February 26 through March 10, 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-558-8887 or visit www.tuts.com. $24 to $109.