Man of La Mancha

Theater, Musicals
4 out of 5 stars

Even before the curtains go up, the actors are already sitting on the pitch-black stage. The grim atmosphere makes it feel as if they have been living there for years. The show commences, and we are quickly thrown into a dungeon with Cervantes, who’s been imprisoned for blasphemy. We’re all familiar with the story of Don Quixote, his adventures and his squire slash travel companion, Sancho. The life of Miguel de Cervantes, the author of the legendary book, is revived in the musical Man of La Mancha. It tells the story of the "mad" knight, Don Quixote, as a play within a play, performed by Cervantes, as he stands before his fellow prisoners in a mock trial.

Cliché, I know, but the words “life-changing” are truly apropos when describing Man of La Mancha. The show deals with the importance of dreams and ideals, through Don Quixote’s words. Lines like: “Facts are the enemy of truth” and “Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!”pierce the hearts of audience members with solemn gravity. For some, Man of La Mancha is a call to follow your dreams even if they seem unreachable. No matter how it strikes each viewer, this musical is a celebration of life. As Don Quixote exclaims, “the effort is sublime and stays forever, no matter how much cunning trickery gets in the way to cloud the results.

The actors who carry the play’s rather heavy messages also deserve acclaim. The three-hour performance is never dull, thanks to the charismatic acting of the exceptional cast. The banter between Don Quixote and Sancho elicit bursts of laughter from the audience, and the back-and-forth seamlessly cues the audience as to when to laugh. Ryu Jeong-han and Jo Seung-woo play Don Quixote and Jeong Sang-hoon and Kim Ho-young take turns playing Sancho. Ryu’s guileless and sometimes amiable grandpa-like Don Quixote is contrasted by Jo’s playful yet mature aristocratic portrayal of the same character. The scene in which the young Cervantes transforms into the old Don Quixote is also quite arresting (Cervantes dons his armor and fake mustache, and even his voice changes into that of an old man). The stage isn’t that large, but it’s filled with high-quality stage effects and impressive actors. The musical numbers weren’t wide-ranging, but the theme song “The Impossible Dream” was as phenomenal as expected.

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