Dale Wasserman's musical retelling of Cervantes' Don Quixote opened on Broadway in 1965 as Man of La Mancha, becoming one of the first dramatic musicals, and followed two decades later by Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, among others. Man of La Mancha ran for 2,328 performances and won five Tony Awards, including best musical and best actor for Richard Kiley. Running more than 300 performances, the most recent of repeated Broadway revivals starred Brian Stokes Mitchell as Quixote in 2002.
In 2nd Star's production of Man of La Mancha, Miguel de Cervantes is in prison awaiting trial during the Inquisition. He defends himself to fellow prisoners by creating a play in the prison dungeon, where he takes on the role of Alanzo Quijana and his alter ego, the idealistic knight Don Quixote, who wants to restore chivalry and right all wrongs.
His manservant becomes Quixote's faithful sidekick Sancho Panza, and prisoners are conscripted to play an innkeeper, a padre, military officers and gypsies. Quixote recognizes his Lady Dulcinea in the kitchen wench Aldonza, who first resents his attentions and later is transformed by his idealization of her.
2nd Star's production resulted from the company's struggle to survive during the recession. The show's idealistic theme and the song "Impossible Dream" resonate with director, producer and set designer Jane B. Wingard, who cofounded 2nd Star in 1996, and serves as president. In Wingard's director's note, she says, " 'The Impossible Dream' is one of the most triumphant testaments to the impact one life can have in all of theater."
The company has a distinguished 13-year history that includes winning two Ruby Griffith Awards presented by the British Embassy for Guys and Dolls in 2002 and Mame in 2004. Among its many stellar musical presentations was a memorable Man of La Mancha in 2000 that starred Braxton Peters of Annapolis Opera as Quixote.
At this critical time in the history of 2nd Star, it is appropriate that Wingard and the company return to this challenging musical, despite its high production costs and heavy demands on cast and crew. Together they have created a musical production eminently worth seeing.
And special kudos are due Wingard for the magnificent cave-like dungeon set she has designed.
For any Man of La Mancha production to succeed requires a believable baritone as Quixote, and 2nd Star has found one in Michael J. Galizia, who delivers a credible vocal and acting performance and achieves a peak with his singing of "Impossible Dream."
Equally compelling is Christine Asero as Aldonza and Quixote's "Lady Dulcinea," in a bravura acting performance that achieves vocal heights in "Aldonza" and later "Dulcinea." Also serving as choreographer, Asero proves her competence as a dancer in a dramatic rape scene.
Another standout performance is offered by Brian Douglas as Sancho Panza, providing humor, believability and fine singing in "I Really Like Him" and with Kevin Cleaver's Barber in "Golden Helmet of Mambrino."
Among the strong supporting cast, John Day is outstanding vocally and dramatically as the Padre delivering shining renditions of "To Each His Dulcinea" and "The Psalm."
Noteworthy vocal performances are also offered by Carole Long as the Housekeeper and by Pamela Day as Antonia. Among supporting players, Ed Wintermute contributes a credible acting performance as the Governor and Innkeeper, and Cleaver is strong as the Barber, as is Zachary Fadler as Anselmo and Wendell Holland as Pedro.
The 15-piece 2nd Star Orchestra under the direction of Donald K. Smith contributes mightily to the overall excellence of the musical performance.
If you go
Performances continue on weekends at Bowie Playhouse in Whitemarsh Park at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through June 27. Tickets are $20 general admission and $17 for seniors (ages 60 and older) and full-time students. Call the box office at 410-757-5700 or 301-832-4819 to order tickets. For more information, go to 2ndstarproductions.com.