‘Man of La Mancha’ views humanity through eyes of playwright

Man wears armor along with some fake facial hair to play Don Quixote
Davis Gaines performs Don Quixote in"Man of La Mancha." Gaines switches roles between Quixote and Cervantes throughout the play. Photo Credit: courtesy of Musical Theatre West.

Man of La Mancha is a story about Miguel de Cervantes, a playwright and tax collector, who is arrested by soldiers of the Spanish Inquisition.

Cervantes’ arrest comes after staging a performance which mocked the government, according to Davis Gaines—who will reprise his Ovation Award-winning role as Don Quixote.

Glenn Casale, director of the play, said viewers can expect to see great acting, singing and an important message.

“It’s a play about a man seeing the humanity [within people],” Casale said. “He’s a man that sees hope and good in everybody. He’s thrown in a prison with murderers, thieves, and rapists, he changes their lives by opening them up to positive thinking.”

Casale explained he is taking a realistic approach in this production.

“Everything they do in this prison unlocks everybody’s mind of reality,” Casale said. “The reality is they’re in this jail. Some are in there for hours and others are there for a lifetime but when they are taken out for the inquisition they have the possibility of getting burned.”

According to Casale, he has a strong voice to work with since Gaines has performed in “The Phantom of the Opera” and will now play Don Quixote again.

Gaines said he has a five-year perspective on the role. He had previously played the Don Quixote character in Long Beach’s Musical Theater West.

“The character I play is Miguel de Cervantes,” Gaines said. “He is the guy they put in prison. He is telling a story to these prisoners and as he is telling this story he becomes a different character. He becomes Don Quixote.”

Gaines explained that this is a dream role for actors and it allows him to push himself. He said he gets to bring all the things he has learned throughout his career and embody it in this role.

Gaines plays two different characters in the play: Miguel de Cervantes and Don Quixote. He said this is a fun and challenging situation since he has to switch between characters.

Besides incorporating drama and comedy, Gaines said the play is uplifting and thinks everyone needs to feel hopeful in this day and age.

“I would be surprised if anyone left the show with a dry eye,” Gaines said. “The ending of the show is so moving that it leaves everybody with a warm positive feeling at the end of it.”

The Valley Performing Arts Center will present “Man of La Mancha,” directed by Casale, from May 5 to 7.

Ticket prices start at $43 and can be purchased at ValleyPerformingArtsCenter.org, visiting the VPAC ticket office, or calling (818) 677-3000.