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Curtain’s up for ‘Man of La Mancha’

Special to The PREVIEW

Photo courtesy Dale Johnson
Dave Armbrecht, front left, stars as Miguel de Cervantes, Jarret Heber is Sancho Panza and Darcy DeGuise is Aldonza in the Curtains Up Pagosa! production of “Man of La Mancha,” playing through Saturday at 7 p.m. each night at the Pagosa Springs High School auditorium.

Curtains Up Pagosa! (formerly Music Boosters) has raised the curtain on their highly anticipated production of “Man of La Mancha.”

The musical opened last night at Pagosa Springs High School auditorium and will have a limited run through Saturday, Dec. 15, with shows each evening starting at 7 p.m.  Tickets can be purchased at the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center downtown or at the door for $15 (adults), $12 (seniors 65-plus) and $10 (students).

The play is staged in a jail holding cell as inmates await their fate with the Spanish Inquisition.  Into the mix of ne’er-do-wells is thrown a gentleman of some breeding, a poet and playwright who had taken a job as a tax collector to help pay his bills. In his attempt to be fair, he had foreclosed on a church that had failed to pay its taxes, an obvious political statement against the Inquisition.

With him is his faithful servant, a simple, sweet fellow who obligingly follows his master to the end.  Don Miguel de Cervantes also brings with him a trunk filled with costumes and a manuscript of his play, things in which the inmates find great delight.

The inmates are led by one man who has assumed the position of “Governor.”  He declares that tradition maintains that the prisoners hold a mock trial to determine the guilt or innocence of the newcomer, Cervantes and his servant.  Cervantes presents his defense in the form of a play about a presumed madman named Don Quixote de la Mancha, a defender of virtue and goodness.  He proposes to incorporate his fellow inmates as actors in the play.  The prisoners go along with this idea, as it presents an interesting diversion to the monotony of normal prison life.

What follows is a funny, sweet, frightening, and ultimately poignant story about a man of privilege who has become delusional.  He takes on the name of Don Quixote and aspires to become a valiant knight in pursuit of his quest to preserve virtue. He and his faithful sidekick, Sancho, go on great adventures to purge the world of evil.

Along the way he meets his woman of virtue, Dulcinea, who in truth is a scullery maid named Aldonza.  Aldonza, through life’s turmoil and tribulation, has been robbed of any imagination or dreams.  She sees only the ugliness of life.  As a result of Quixote’s unrelenting insistence of her goodness, she is sucked into Quixote’s quest and is redeemed by his vision of glory, finally seeing that she truly is Dulcinea.

As it turns out, Quixote’s foes are not only the obvious bad guys who do horrible evil acts.  His own family, members of the upper crust, is embarrassed by his insane antics and go to great and cruel lengths to cure him of his delusions.  A seemingly harmless man who holds goodness and purity as his highest quest is brought to near disastrous ruin by the ones who claim to have his best interests at heart.

This play within a play leaves its audience with much food for thought regarding the nature of good and evil.  Its brilliantly written script is punctuated with music that inspires and touches the soul.  Dave Armbrecht plays the part of Cervantes/Quixote with sensitivity, offering his audience the opportunity to laugh at his antics while at the same time sympathizing and, finally, falling in love with his character.

“This is perhaps one of the most difficult and challenging musicals CUP has ever attempted,” says director Dale Johnson.  “It requires very mature acting and musical skills.  I am happy to say that our cast and orchestra have risen to the challenge.   The play has an impact on the scale of ‘Les Miserables,’ challenging its audience to feel deeply for its characters, even the ones most difficult to love.”

Curtains Up Pagosa! is a community-supported non-profit organization established in 1989, whose mission is to strengthen youth through the performing arts and adult volunteer mentorship.  All proceeds from this production go to support student arts programs and students majoring in the performing arts.

“Man of La Mancha” runs through Dec. 15 in the high school auditorium, with each show beginning at 7 p.m.  Do yourself a favor and put “Man of La Mancha” on your holiday to-do list.  It will be one of the best gifts you give yourself this holiday season.

This story was posted on December 13, 2012.