BWW Interviews: Jack Curenton Dreams Quixote's Impossible Dream in the National Tour of MAN OF LA MANCHA
Man of La Mancha returns to the stage in an all-new production of the Tony Award winning musical that has inspired audiences since the very first notes of "The Impossible Dream" were heard on opening night.
Man of La Mancha is a remarkable show and one of the great theatre successes of our time. This play-within-a-play is based on Cervantes's Don Quixote, a poignant story of a dying old man whose "impossible dream" takes over his mind. Against all odds, Don Quixote man sees good and innocence in a world filled with darkness and despair. Man of La Mancha won 5 Tony Awards including Best Musical, along with the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical and the Outer Critics Circle Award.
The new touring production stops in Austin, TX this week, and star Jack E. Curenton recently answered several questions for BroadwayWorld regarding the production...
Q: Why do you think Man of La Mancha has engaged audiences for nearly 50 years?
A: This show has the universal appeal of the little guy trying to buck the system by not buying into the normal or conventional wisdom of how to live one's life. Everyone wants change for the better, but they don't necessarily want to make the effort necessary to make a difference. The saying, "Always jousting at windmills" is now a well-known part of our vocabulary and it comes from this story. Don Quixote views life not as it is....but as it ought to be and then works to make that vision the reality. Something I think everyone wants...or should!
Q: What is it like to step into the beloved role of Don Quixote?
A: I've been very fortunate to be able to reprise a role that I performed over 35 years ago and had the opportunity to direct the show 5 years ago. I have personally lived the message of Don Quixote all my life. Some people see things as they are and ask "Why?" I prefer to see things as they should be and ask, "Why Not?" I could write a book on my stories about that.
Q: What was your reaction when you got the call that you were cast as Don Quixote?
A: Of course, I was very pleased that Jeff [Moss, the director of this production] had chosen me for a role that is one of the most beloved characters on the stage. I now do mostly film and commercial work and looked forward to getting back on the boards to "be" my favorite character of all that I've performed.
A: This is a very elite group of exceptionally talented actors and to even be included/mentioned in their ranks is a great honor. When we as actors take on a role, we try to take ownership of that role and bring to it the dignity and reality it deserves and also a bit of our own life's experience to make it feel real. Having now survived several decades of my own life experiences, I feel a new appreciate and kinship for all three characters: Cervantes, Quixote and Alonso Quihana.
Q: Don Quixote is one of those roles that lots of actors want to play at some point in their career. Was he one of your dream roles?
A: Don Quixote is my favorite role of all the ones I've played (and I've done over 80, some duplicates). I consider the show one of the Top 10 all-time Broadway shows in history.
Q: What's your favorite moment in the show?
The "Play within a Play" has so many great moments. The ability of Cervantes, through Quixote, to move the entire group to "change" is a classic story about how (as he sings in "The Impossible Dream") "One Man, Scorned and Covered With Scars Still Strove With His Last Ounce of Courage". If you carry that example on to its conclusion, we've seen that happen throughout history by people like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Jesus and so many more whose philosophies are the "Needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few/one" and their attempts to not just accept life "As it is," but to change it to "As it should be". However, I have to also mention that I now, being older and hopefully wiser, have a new appreciation for the song "Aldonza," where it's evident that a man must be aware of how his actions can affect a woman in a negative manner, no matter how good his intentions are. So guys, be aware of this.
Q: When did you know that you wanted to become an actor?
A: I have to give my mother credit for that. My parents were teachers and used to take summer vacations around the country. On a trip to New York they saw the opening of Oliver! and brought back the recording. Mom thought I'd make a good Oliver....after listening to the record I gravitated to the part of Fagin and 5 years later did the part in 9th grade, my first on stage show and reprised that role 2 more times over the years.
Q: What performers inspire you?
A: I grew up watching TV and enjoyed the likes of Walter Brennan, Wallace Berry, Slim Pickens, Jack Elam. They were all funny character actors and importantly they seemed to always be working! So I became a character actor myself and subsequently have done a lot of characters on stage: Fagin (Oliver!), Quixote (Man of La Mancha), Alfred P Doolittle (My Fair Lady), Tevye (Fiddler on the Roof), Major General Stanley (Pirates of Penzance) and many in film and commercials.
Q: How have audiences responded to the tour so far?
A: We have had packed houses and standing ovations at the shows. We even performed at an Ice Hockey rink (the ice was covered!!). The crowds love the story and I dare anyone to not cry during the finale.
MAN OF LA MANCHA, produced by Columbia Artists Theatricals, plays The Long Center of the Performing Arts at 701 W. Riverside Dr, Austin 78704. Performances are Tuesday January 14th and Wednesday January 15th at 7:30pm. Tickets are $39-$79. For tickets and information, please visit www.thelongcenter.org.
MAN OF LA MANCHA features direction by Jeffrey B. Moss and a cast that features Jack E. Curenton as Don Quixote, Jessica Norland as Aldonza and Rick Grossman as Sancho, along with Jebbel Arce, Felipe Bombonato, Chuck Caruso, Rachel Felstein, Todd Fenstermaker, Alison Gleason, Tucker Hammock, Chuck Hodges, Ivan Hoffman, Arthur Lazalde, Gabriel Rodrigues, Andrew Serkes, Grant Snuffer, Eugene Steficek, and Yvonne Strumecki. Denis Jones choreographs, with musical supervision by Cherie Rosen. The costumes are designed and executed by Lucille Lortel Winners and Drama Desk Nominees Michael Bottari and Ronald Case.
For more Tour information, visit www.columbiaartiststheatricals.com.