Not your everyday high school theatrical fare, Man of La Mancha is technically and dramatically a difficult play. Performers must be singers and dancers and often play dual roles. The Milton Academy cast and crew, however, “dreamed the impossible dream” and in eight short weeks brought the impressive production to the stage.
Directed by Dar Anastas of the performing arts department, the cast includes singers, dancers, actors, an orchestra, stage crew and theatre support. Approximately 75 students and eight faculty members are involved in the production.
This play includes 27 musical numbers and all members of the cast sing in the production; that is not to say all are trained singers. For some, like Leonard Mazzone (Class II), who plays the innkeeper, the first time he sang onstage was his audition.
Staging Man of La Mancha enables students to try something new and to be on a Milton stage. During auditions, Dar never loses sight of the fact that theatrical productions are about education. “Students don’t have to have a Broadway-voice to be a part of a Milton musical. It is an ensemble piece and therefore has opportunities for a students to do things they have never had the chance to do before.”
During auditions, held during the first week of school, students sang in pairs. “Taking away that sense of exposure made singing on stage a little easier for many of the students,” says Dar. Man of La Mancha is a play within a play, and unlike other musicals that require a polished voice, the music of Man of la Mancha demands an earthy quality, so students at many levels of vocal ability could try for a part.
For the students, this musical experience demands collaboration at an unusual level and teamwork is integral to the production’s success. The skills of individual students vary; many of the students read music, one is a gymnast, one – a guitar player – plays guitar live on stage. Devin Heater, who plays Sancho Panza, sings a capella. Each student brings his or her experiences and talents to the stage and each works hard to help the other members of the cast. “When you’re all stuck together, there has to be teamwork,” jokes Dar.
The rehearsal schedule was intense, but students worked from a schedule that set, at the start, days when their role was part of rehearsal and days that were free. According to Dar, the rehearsal schedule is “about courtesy and respect, two things that are integral in putting together a show of this size.” The students have two jobs — they must do well academically and they must create a play — the performing arts department works with the students’ advisors to support them and help them do both well.
With singing often comes dancing. Choreography for the production was designed with students’ strengths and abilities in mind. The combat scenes, which Dar likens to the Three Muskateers versus Jackie Chan, also involve intricate choreography.
Man of La Mancha opens on Thursday, November 14 at 7:30 with shows on November 15 at 7:30 and November 16 at 7:00 in King Theatre.
Man of La Mancha is a comic tragedy of mankind’s struggle to better both himself and the world in which he lives. Cervantes and an associate are brought to prison to await a hearing with the Inquisition. He is set upon by the prisoners, who decide to hold a mock trial in order to find him guilty and steal all his possessions. Cervantes presents a play as his defense, to give the “jury” insight into the “crimes” of which they accuse him. They agree and become actors in his play. Cervantes plays Alhonso Quiana, a man who has set his own reality aside and become Don Quixote De La Mancha. Cervantes’ story becomes an inspiration to pursue our personal quests with unfailing dedication, unbridled optimism, unwavering courage, and unparalleled chivalry.