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One of the world’s most popular musicals has found a temporary home at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. And you should see it! Celebrating five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, the 1964 hit takes on a most interesting chapter in the life of Don Quixote while spending time in prison as he awaits a hearing with the Spanish Inquisition. Based on one of 17th century Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes’ most famed characters the 1959 teleplay I, Don Quixote set the stage for what has become one of the most successful musicals to date. Often referred to as a play within a play, Man of La Mancha focuses on Quixote, an imprisoned writer who has turned away from the harsh realities of the world such as battle, crime and poverty and decides rather to view the world as he wants to see it where a prostitute, Aldonza, can instead be a his beloved Dulcinea, a battered cane can be a mighty sword or a cooking pot can be a prized helmet – a victorious trophy. 

 

Music Director Ryan T. Nelson and six-time Jeff Award director Nick Bowling take on this long-time prolific musical, splendidly piecing together a production that engages throughout and profoundly touches the heart. It is together with the powerhouse acting performance of Nathaniel Stampley, that this production goes over and beyond, becoming an instant Marriott classic and a show that will long be remembered for its superb acting and gripping storytelling. Stampley brilliantly seizes the lead role, which is really two leading roles, as the passionate writer who has defied the Spanish Inquisition along with the imaginary knight he has become in his imagination. 

  

Stampley is an actor you can easily root for. Magnetic and captivating, Stampley is a tour de force, capturing the character’s subtleties while becoming a dominating presence when called for, particularly during his breathtaking rendition of the production’s famed song “The Impossible Dream”, which led to a much deserved extended applause that only escalated to a higher volume every time the cheers began to die down.  

 

Stampley gets solid support from actress Danni Smith who delivers a memorable performance of her own, the two skillfully playing off each other to generate the much needed connection to make this show work. Richard Ruiz is also excellent as Quixote's trusty sidekick, Sancho. As all Marriott shows go, we are treated to a very gifted ensemble, as well. 

 

Director Nick Bowling does add a twist to the original by having the story take place in modern times. Simply said, it works. As Bowling explains, “We put the story in modern day with the notion that there are inquiries still going today and there will always be inquisitions.” Bowling’s underlying tones are powerful and serve as a wake up call for some while everyone can still enjoy a masterful musical that can be as heartwarming as it can sad and often humorous in just the right spots. 

 

Wonderfully acted with a slew of talented vocal performances, Man of La Mancha is a sure summer hit that is sure to make theatre goers cheer, feel and emphasize with and for a man who dares to dream the impossible dream and fight the unbeatable foe. 

 

Man of La Mancha is being performed at Marriott Theatre through August 14th. Tickets range from $50-$55. For more show information visit www.marriotttheatre.com.               

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

When guests visit Chicago we want to show them the best of our city. But sometimes it's our guests that bring the best to us. That is the case for The Royal Ballet as they return to the Windy City to perform their critically acclaimed "Don Quixote" at Chicago's Auditorium Theatre. 

RoyalBallet DonQuixote 01Chicagoans donned their best for the ballet's premiere night as though they were in the presence of royalty. There was not a single pair of jeans or flip flops present (thank you, Chicago). Perhaps it was because The Royal Ballet is Great Britain's most prestigious ballet company performing for kings and queens, as well as mere commoners, since 1931. The company has produced some of the greatest figures in ballet history to include the incredible Margot Fonteyn and Antoinette Sibley. Led by its director, Kevin O'Hare, The Royal Ballet is currently on a three city tour of the US with "Don Quixote," making stops in Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C."The Royal Ballet hasn't visited Chicago since 1978 so with this ballet, we plan to showcase the depth of the dancers' talent led by our world-class roster of principals," said O'Hare. And what a showcase it was.

Royal Ballet Prinipal Guest Artist Carlos Acosta's production of "Don Quixote" was created especially for The Royal Ballet, filled with flirtation, fun, humor, and love. The story follows the adventures of a bumbling knight Don Quixote, accompanied by his ever-faithful squire Sancho Panza, as he embarks on a quest for his dream woman. Along the way, he stumbles upon the lovers Kitri and Basilio. Kitri's father wants her to marry the wealthy Gamache, a rich, foppish nobleman. A journey ensues as the lovers try to escape those plans while Don Quixote tries to right the wrongs in the world on his quest.

The story of Don Quixote is a difficult one to bring to the stage. The Don himself is the focus of the story, but the smaller characters' stories and lives are at center stage for the majority of the ballet. The Royal Ballet's principal leads with Acosta as Basilio and Marianela Nunez as Kitri were spectacular. They were flirty and coy with one another but epitomized a ballet's pas de deux. They had grace, strength, beauty, and unity. The same could not be said for some of the other soloists and leads. Many of Kitri's friends were out of sync with one another, as well as some of the matadors. The Royal Ballet is a large company, and many acts often had thirty or more dancers on stage. When someone was slightly off or behind the music your eyes were drawn in a negative way to those people, detering from the incredible duets and soloists. Regardless of any small timing issues, Acosta, both in the production and the leading artist role, put on an impressive and magnificent ballet. From flirting flamengo dancers and dashing matadors to gypsies and dryads, "Don Quixote" is a beautiful and epic journey.

RoyalBallet DonQuixote 06

Having never seen "Don Quixote" nor read the story (forgive me literature gods), I can say that the ballet was a beautiful ballet. The sets provided the perfect backdrop to the dancers accompanied by a live orchestra. The gorgeous theatre provided the perfect stage for a magical evening. For those still not convinced that ballet can be enjoyable should make it their mission to see "Don Quixote" and right the wrongs of not experiencing this amazing art. Have the best adventure at the ballet tonight.

The Royal Ballet is concluding the Auditorium Theatre's 125th Anniversary International Dance Series performing "Don Quixote" through Sunday June 21st. Tickets ($32-$137) are on sale now and available online at AuditoriumTheatre.org or at the Auditorium Theatre Box Office (50 E Congress Pkwy).

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