MOUNTAIN PLAY: Man of La Mancha

Don Quixote (William Elsman) Sancho Panza (Randy Nazarian) andDulcinea (Linda Gaudiani) right unrightable wrongs in the Mountain Play's Man of La Mancha. Photo by Ed Smith

The Mountain Play Association in Cooperation with California State Parks Presents:

MAN OF LA MANCHA a musical with a book by Dale Wasserman, lyrics by Joe Darion and music by Mitch Leigh. Directed by James Dunn. Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre on Mt. Tamalpais, Mill Valley, California. For more information call 415-383-1100 or visit Performances on Sunday May 24, 31, June 7, June 13 and Saturday June 14 and June 21.


In his 27th year as Artistic Director for the Mountain Play holding forth on majestic Mt. Tamalpais, James Dunn has whipped together a very satisfying production of the inspirational musical Man of La Mancha reinforcing the adage that it is possible to follow the impossible dream. You won’t find a better setting than the outdoor amphitheatre to hear the song “The Impossible Dream” that has been the trade mark of this show since its 1965 Broadway opening, running for 2,328 performances and making Richard Kiley a star.

Based on the novel “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes it is a play within a play taking place in a Spanish Dungeon during the Inquisition. Cervantes (William Elsman) and his faithful manservant (Randy Nazarian) and all their possessions have been thrown into prison for Cervantes’ audacity, as a tax collector, to foreclose on a monastery. The other prisoners, whose leader is “The Governor” (Ray Martin), falls upon them with the threat to burn Cervantes’s manuscript. A mock trial, with the Governor as Judge, is set For his defense, Cervantes will produce a play acted out by all the prisoners with Cervantes as the author, narrator and lead actor. Cervantes opens the trunk, removes makeup and costume to become the learned Alonso Quijana now gone mad as Don Quixote de La Mancha. With his manservant becoming Sancho Panza, they sing the rousing “Man of La Mancha.”

One prisoner becomes the serving wench Aldonza (Linda Gaudiani) and others become Muleteers and as she sings the bawdy “It’s All the Same to Me.” Don Quixote returns with Sancho after an unsuccessful tilting with a windmill, sees Aldonza and in his eyes is the beautiful “lady” Dulcinea whom he praises in song “Dulcinea.”

Enter Antonia (Sophia Morris) Quijana’s niece, a housekeeper (Sandi Weldon) and a Padre (Buzz Halsing) with a trio singing the satirical “I’m Only Thinking of Him.” The other main character is Dr. Carrasco (Michael Cassidy), Antonia’s fiancée and the trio becomes a quartet for the reprise. All the main characters are in place and Nazarian does a terrific job with two solos “The Missive” and “I Really Like Him” followed by the Gaudiani, as Aldonza, tearing her heart out with “What does he Want of Me.” Before the first act ends we are treated to an ensemble production of the plaintive “Little Bird, Little Bird” the humorous “Barber’s Song” and “Golden Helmet of Mambrino.”

To open the second act Halsing, as the Padre, sets the tone with his excellent baritone voice “To Each His Dulcinea” before the play’s signature song “The Impossible Dream” by Elsman brings cheers from the audience.

Director Dunn demonstrates his skill at staging large scenes for “The Combat” and “The Abduction.” Choreographers Melinda Darlington & Cynthia Pepper who stage a spirited Gypsy Dance ably assist him. Nazarian again steals the spotlight with “A Little Gossip” before Gaudiani’s emotional reprise of “Dulcinea.”

Nazarian and Halsing are to be commended for their singing while Elsman and Guardiani who have problems with the upper registers make up for any deficiencies with their professional acting ability. Overall, a visit to the Mountain Play is well worth the trip. Make sure you bring an extra pillow and do plan to make it a picnic outing for all the family.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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