VCU presents Don Quixote and sidekick in “Man of La Mancha”

Austin Walker
Staff Writer

Tickets are on sale now to see Theatre VCU perform one of the world’s most renowned comedic musicals, “Man Of La Mancha”. Winner of five Tony awards, it tells the story of the blighted Don Quixote and his quirky sidekick, Sancho.

Inspired by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s “Don Quixote,” the famous musical “Man of La Mancha” has played over 2,328 times on Broadway, with famous songs from “The Impossible Dream” to “I, Don Quixote.”

Swords fly as Don Quixote and his servant Sancho Panza go on wild adventures. photo by christian keppler

The story comes from the famous novella that follows the story of  Miguel de Cervantes, failed tax collector, knight and playwright. Following his imprisonment for his foreclosure of a monastery, his fellow prisoners propose a mock trial. Cervantes, in an attempt to preserve his unfinished manuscript, proposes a play in which he reinvents himself as his book’s imagined character, Don Quixote. He and his renamed servant, Sancho Panza, make the prisoners all fellow characters and the play within the play follows the misadventures of Quixote and Panza on their quest. Some of the most memorable antics are Quixote’s mistaking of a windmill for a giant and his attempts to conquer it.

The cast will be accompanied by a live orchestra, performing the famed music alongside the voices of students Nick Motola, Billy Borst, Tricia Wiles and many more. Theatre VCU has also brought in James Taylor, a graduate of Birmingham-Southern College and Yale University. Taylor could accurately be described as an opera singer, with experience internationally as a vocal performer. He will be taking the leading role of Cervantes / Don Quixote.

Director of the show Patti D’Beck is no stranger to the musical scene. She has choreographed VCU’s production of “Cabaret,” and directed and choreographed “Guys and Dolls,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “White Christmas” and “The Directors.” She expressed her excitement and praise for Taylor, the only non-student performer in the show.

“He’s just a charming, lovely gentleman to begin with, and he told me it’s a role he’s always wanted to do,” said D’Beck. “It’s just been terrific working with him.”

Chris Smith, a follow spot operator for the show, said working with a show of this scale has been a challenge.

“It’s a lot more complicated,” Smith said. “This is probably one of the heaviest designed shows I’ve ever worked on, especially in terms of lighting and stagecraft.”

Between musical numbers, coordinating with the live orchestra, designing and utilizing the lighting, the costuming and the set, the tech team has been running at full capacity. With a production staff of more than 50 students, the stage is expected to be near-Broadway quality.

“This show is very upbeat. It’s a big show, it requires big characters, big sets (and) big lights,” Smith said. “Taking all that into account, you have to compensate for all the technical aspects of it to make sure it all adds up to the big versions on Broadway.”

The show is running every weekend from Nov. 7-22 at 7:30 p.m., with 3 p.m. matinee showings Nov. 9, 16 and 23. Discounted tickets are available to all students at theatrevcu.showclix.com.

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