Marriott Theatre’s ‘Man of La Mancha’ wins with stage strides”

By PHILIP POTEMPA
Of Notoriety


Even though the Broadway in Chicago run for “Hamilton,” which is causing the buzz consuming every theater-goer’s conversation these days, doesn’t start until late September, other worthy options abound for summer.

A new production of “Man of La Mancha,” starring a talented actress with Northwest Indiana roots, is now playing through Aug. 14 at The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. The Broadway musical treatment of the classic tale of “Don Quixote,” detailing his wildly entertaining imagination paired with a perceptive wisdom all can learn from, remains a timeless classic as envisioned with a new slant by director Nick Bowling.

While still sharing a story based in 16th Century Spain during the Spanish Inquisition, the director has reimagined the “framing” for the story to use a modern and contemporary spin for the set, props and costuming to add his own commentary to the characters, coupled with the anguish of today’s society. The story is still set in a prison with the title character regaling his fellow captives with a master storyteller flashback rendition of the tales of an off-center would-be knight who battles the windmills, both real and those in his mind, during his quest to conquer life’s challenges and reap the rewards of perseverance.

Since I taught college classes for 12 years for Purdue North Central at both Michigan City Prison and Westville Correctional Center, without a doubt, Bowling along with Jeffrey D. Kmiec’s set design and Nancy Missimi’s costume design, have captured the mindset, landscape and fabric for incarceration immersion. What hasn’t changed with this run of the work, which originally won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical and features the book by Dale Wasserman, lyrics by Joe Darion and the amazing score by Mitch Leigh, are the powerful and moving musical numbers.

Based on Miguel de Cervantes masterpiece “The Adventures of Don Quixote,” this new run of the musical “Man of La Mancha” features actress Danni Smith, who originally hails from Logansport, as Aldonza, the leading lady who awaits rescue from the most unlikely knight of classic literature. Smith’s pure and pronounced vocals shine with her performance of songs like “It’s All the Same” and “What Does He Want of Me?” Actor Nathaniel Stampley is in fine form as the title character and he commands the stage with his every move, easily winning every ear in the audience with his delivery of the songs “The Impossible Dream” and “Man of La Mancha.” His loyal sidekick, Sancho, is played with charm and humor by Richard Ruiz.

By the end of the stage story, this one hour and 45-minute, no intermission investment is a reminder to us all that the battle against life’s windmills, both real and imagined, provides strength for each day’s renaissance. Tickets are $50 to $55. FYI: (847) 634-0200 or www.MarriottTheatre.com

For “Mancha” photo caption

Actress Danni Smith stars as the female lead in a new production of the musical “Man of La Mancha” playing until Aug. 14 at Marriott Theatre. (Photo by Liz Lauren)