"Man of La Mancha," a musical adaptation of "Don Quixote," will open at Renaissance Theatre in Huntsville on Friday. Decatur native Darin Windham, center, is both the war-weary author Cervantes and his idealistic fictional hero, Quixote. The show also features Doug Maze, on the floor, and Chuck Puckett, right, both of Decatur. They are joined by Hartselle native Marc Slate, left foreground, and Dave Schulte of Hartselle.
The Quest for adventure
Decatur woman directs 'Man of La Mancha,' which stars local actors
By Patrice Stewart
firstname.lastname@example.org · 340-2446
Staging "Man of La Mancha" was a dream for Carol Puckett and others from Decatur, but it was not "The Impossible Dream."
The musical, which may be best known for its inspiring song, "The Impossible Dream," opens Friday night at Renaissance Theatre in Huntsville and runs for eight performances over two weekends.
Puckett, who directs the show, has vivid memories of a late 1960s production of "Man of La Mancha" presented by the Huntsville Civic Chorus in the Lee High School Auditorium. It starred Albert Lane of Huntsville as Don Quixote and Margaret Bacon of Decatur as Aldonza.
"This mind-boggling, powerful event was the first stage show I ever saw," she recalled. She was 12, and it "literally changed the way I looked at the world."
The show was a Broadway musical hit in 1965 and a film in 1972. The most recent Broadway revival of the play, written by Dale Wasserman in the 1960s, was in 2002.
The show, which is based on events in the life of 16th-century author Miguel de Cervantes, "is provocative, life-affirming and strongly presents the message that 'life should be lived not as it is, but as it ought to be,' " Puckett said. Cervantes believed that "to dream the impossible dream" elevates man's spirit and circumstance toward a higher spiritual plane and results in a better world.
Meanwhile, he served as tax collector to support his writing, but after those duties land him in prison, he must bargain with other prisoners to save his manuscript from destruction.
Darin Windham, a former Decatur resident who now lives in Huntsville, performs the leading role of Don Quixote, the mad knight (and Miguel Cervantes). The winner of several Wings Awards for his musical roles in Huntsville, he will be remembered for his Decatur performances in "Music Man," "Camelot," "1776" and more.
Chuck Puckett, the director's husband, plays Sancho Panza, the sidekick and manservant of Don Quixote. Doug Maze of Decatur is the scene-stealing barber. Both add plenty of comedy to this show, and both are also Huntsville Wings Award winners.
The role of Aldonza, the scullery wench whom Quixote sees as his noble lady, will be played by Karen Young, who teaches voice at The University of Alabama in Huntsville and Ars Nova. Last year she had the lead in Puccini's "Soeur Angelica."
Dave Schulte of Hartselle plays the recalcitrant Duke/Knight of the Mirrors and his father, John Schulte of Winchester, Tenn., makes his stage debut as the authoritative Governor. Jason Morgan, son of Rod and Andrea Lee Morgan of Decatur, is a charming Padre.
The cast also includes evil muleteers, led by Loren Bacon as Pedro, and conniving prisoners, each taking on multiple roles as Cervantes presents a play within a play: the story of Quixote in the common room of a prison dungeon at the time of the Spanish Inquisition.
Born to play role
"The best part of the show is watching Darin Windham's face," the director said. "It becomes quickly apparent that this is the role he was born to play."
The orchestra playing the title song, as well as "The Impossible Dream" and the rest of the lush score, will be directed by UAH Music Department faculty member Dave Ragsdale.
The staging for "Man of La Mancha" takes maximum advantage of the intimacy of the Renaissance main stage, Chuck Puckett said, but because space is limited, call early to reserve seats.
The show "will affect you in the way that great musicals do," he said. "It will make you chuckle, it may make you cry, but in the end, it will move your heart and elevate your spirit."
If you go
What: "Man of La Mancha" musical
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday, May 16, 17, 18 and 19, plus matinees at 2:30 Saturday and May 19; a dinner theater option is available Friday and May 18
Where: Renaissance Theatre, 1216B Meridian St., Huntsville
Tickets: $18 for the show; dinner is extra; call the theater, 536-3117
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