Man of La Mancha ~ 2018

The Possible Dream

The story of the Man of La Mancha is one of dreaming and then achieving the impossible dream.  The production now on stage at the Hamilton Family Theatre in Cambridge is indeed a story of achievement.  Not only did Alex Mustakas, artistic director of Drayton Entertainment, envision and then build the theatre; he also had a life-long desire to play the lead role in Man of La Mancha.

Mustakas saw the national tour of Man of La Mancha at the O’Keefe Centre for the Performing Arts (now the Sony Centre) on a high school trip in 1979 and was so affected by Richard Kiley’s portrayal of the title role that he became determined to have a professional career in the performing arts.  Mustakas manages Drayton Entertainment and directs many shows there, as well as performing in a few.  He has certainly achieved a new pinnacle with his powerful performance of the iconic role of Don Quixote.

Man of La Mancha has three levels:  a play within a play, within a play.  It starts with the story of Miguel de Cervantes, a poet of note in the 16th century, quite possibly Spain’s Shakespeare. Cervantes and his loyal servant are thrown into prison and charged to appear before the Inquisition.  But their fellow prisoners want to put them through their own so-called court first, in order to rob them of their possessions.  To distract the prisoners, Cervantes offers to put on a play for them.  So he tells the story of Alonso Quijana, an elderly landowner who, in his old age, is suffering from dementia.  He believes he is a knight in shining armour named Don Quixote, but in fact, that armour is rusty and dull.

The deluded Don Quixote and his sidekick Sancho, played by Cervantes’ faithful servant, set forth to right all wrongs. While the man is obviously irrational, his optimism is quite charming and their adventures provide the play’s comedy.  The elderly Quixote has trouble with his vision:  He thinks he’s attacking the enemy when he’s really jousting at windmills.  A barber’s shaving bowl becomes a highly coveted golden helmet.  And when he meets Aldonza, the rough and weary local prostitute, he views her as his beloved, virginal, fair maiden.  When Aldonza throws her dirty dishrag at Sancho, Don Quixote sees it as a “gossamer” token of her affection.

Mustakas has nailed this three-part role.  His stature and attitude change between the three characters and he commands the stage, no matter which of the three he is portraying.  His singing is perfect:  in particular, with the beautiful tribute “Dulcinea”, and in the famous show-stopper “The Impossible Dream”.

Kelly Holiff is the ideal Aldonza/Dulcinea.  She can belt the angry songs, then switch to the soprano notes with ease.  There is a special richness in her singing.  There is also a sincerity in her acting, especially in the difficult scene where she is harassed and raped.

Comic relief is provided by Aaron Walpole as the sidekick Sancho and Tim Porter as the barber.  Andrew Scanlon has a smooth singing voice as the Padre.

This is probably one of the best ensembles presented by Drayton Entertainment.  Each member of the cast is a star in his or her own right.  The singing, with expert harmonies, fills the theatre.  This is also a very physical show with compelling fight scenes.  Credit goes to Director David Hogan for the confident acting and strong vocal performances.  His handling of Aldonza’s abuse and rape demonstrates sensitivity.

Man of La Mancha has withstood the test of time, as relevant today, as it was when it was first presented on Broadway in 1965.  The message regarding the treatment of women needs to be heard now more than ever.  As well, we need to dream and find happiness.

Don Quixote is quite happy in his dementia.  While he may be living in his own imagination, he is delighted to be living the dream.  He avoids harsh reality and remains the eternal optimist.  No dream is impossible.  Much can be learned from him; he is not “burdened by sanity”.  In fact, in this world, we should all be a little bit crazy.

Man of LaMancha continues with eight shows a week until November 4 at The Hamilton Family Theatre, Cambridge.  Tickets are available at 519-621-8000 or visit

Photo: Alex Mustakas and Company in Man of La Mancha, Photo by Hilary Gauld Camilleri.

Man of La Mancha
By Dale Wasserman
Music by Mitch Leigh
Lyrics by Joe Darion
Directed by David Hogan
Musical Direction by Konrad Pluta
Performed by Alex Mustakas, Kelly Holiff, Aaron Walpole, Andrew Scanlon, Victor A. Young, Graeme Goodhall, Dani Jazzar, Susan JohnstonCollins, Amanda Leigh, Anthony MacPherson, Jamie McKnight, Dan Payne, Kale Penny, Drew Plummer, Tim Porter, Curtis Sullivan, Brent Thiessen, Jennifer Thiessen, Amber Tomlin, Samuel Van Dusen.
Produced by Drayton Entertainment
Hamilton Family Theatre, Cambridge
October 10 to November 4, 2018.
Reviewed by Mary Alderson


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