'Man of La Mancha' comes to Bradley Theatre

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Putnam - posted Mon., Mar. 25, 2013
Dan Healy as Don Quixote and Carl Mercier as Sancho rehearse 'Man of La Mancha.'
Dan Healy as Don Quixote and Carl Mercier as Sancho rehearse for 'Man of La Mancha.' Photos by D. Coffey.

When Dan Healy takes the stage as Cervantes, Alonso Quijana and Don Quixote in the Bradley theater production of “Man of La Mancha,” he will be performing a dream role. He has always wanted to perform the role, but opportunity and age never cooperated until this year.

He calls the musical a play within a play and a complex show that operates on many levels. Take his characters. He plays Cervantes, who plays Quijana in a prison show, who then becomes the famous Don Quixote. It's a multi-level extravaganza that requires all the performers to be dexterous in their roles.

The story revolves around Spanish novelist and poet Miguel de Cervantes and his tale of Don Quixote. When the play opens, Cervantes has just been thrown into prison during the Spanish Inquisition. In order to keep his fellow prisoners from taking his possessions, the most prized of which is his unfinished novel, he asks them to let him perform for them. They acquiesce. He tells them the story of the elderly squire Alonso Quijana, who has gone mad from reading about the injustices in the world. Quijana becomes the errant knight Don Quixote, who goes off to right the world's wrongs. In his madness, Quixote sees challenges in windmills and virtue in those others might consider beneath them.

The show brought University of Connecticut theater graduate Carl Mercier back to the Bradley for the first time in 10 years. “It's a wonderful show about dreams and chasing your dreams, and that's a big part of how I've tried to live my whole life,” he said. Mercier has been doing theater in and around northeastern Connecticut for more than 30 years. He's performed in more than 80 shows, directed more than 55, ran Break-a-Leg Productions and founded the Black Box Theater at the Complex for the Performing Arts. This role requires him to be the comic sidekick, the foil and friend to Don Quixote. “It feels good to be involved in something that will make people feel good and happy,” he said.

But the show isn't all about happiness and light. Bad things happen to several of the characters. The play touches on social injustice, religious hypocrisy, political unrest, discrimination and man's inhumanity to man (and woman). It continues to be relevant today, even though it is set in the 1500s.

“It's a remarkable story when you begin to see the layers,” said Linda Colangelo, who plays Aldonza. “The Spanish Inquisition was a time of persecution. Quixote is a man on a quest to right the wrongs of the world and impart this knowledge to those around him.”

Colangelo's character, merely a prostitute to her fellow prisoners, is a fair lady to Quixote, who battles in her defense.

Director David Panteleakos said Colangelo was able to bring an elegance to the show. “She's an amazing performer,” he said. “That elegance is so important to the transition from Aldonza to Dulcinea, Quixote's fair maiden.”

“The writing is exceptional, the music is gorgeous, and the story is just beautiful,” Panteleakos said. “I want the audience to walk away having a wonderful theater experience and singing 'The Impossible Dream,' or 'Man of La Mancha.' It's a phenomenal classic that's great for the whole family.”

The show runs April 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m. and April 7, 14 and 21 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $21 for adults, and $18 for seniors and students. Order tickets online at www.thebradleyplayhouse.org, by phone at 860-928-7887 or at the box office.


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