Joan Gross: Hillbarn dreams the impossible dream

The Hillbarn Theatre in Foster City opens its 67th season with “Man of La Mancha,” the famed musical based on the story. The show opens Sept. 6 and runs through Sept. 30.

This epic tale of Don Quixote, his servant Sancho Panza, and the woman of his dreams, Aldonza, is set at the end of the 16th century. Cervantes is brought to prison to await

a hearing with the inquisitor. Being a novelist, Cervantes, to prove his innocence, convinces the prisoners his defense should be entertainment. He spins his tale of the knight, Don Quixote of La Mancha, champion of the oppressed and righter of wrongs.

With a book by Dale Wasserman, music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion, the show originally appeared on Broadway in 1965, winning five Tony Awards.

Ted Barker makes his Hillbarn debut as Cervantes and Don Quixote, roles he portrayed 20 years ago during his college days at Northwestern University.

He says, “I can understand Cervantes … much better now. As Cervantes tells his story, he changes himself as well as helping his fellow prisoners. My biggest challenge is acting both parts, making each of them distinct.”

Katie Francis, as Aldonza, also is appearing with Hillbarn for the first time. She says, “Aldonza has had a very rough life, being abandoned at birth. Although she feels beaten down, it isn’t until she meets Don Quixote that she sees herself as worth something. This shows us that she is still alive, has not given up, even at her worst time. It is the story that touches us all of the human spirit, finding the strength to go on.”

Director Stephen Maddox first saw the production on a high school graduation trip to New York City. He says, “I immediately fell in love with it, and decided right then that I wanted to be involved in the magic I saw onstage. … It’s a tale that signifies we are all good, that we sometimes struggle to bring out that goodness. And yet we can all be transformed.”

The show’s production staff includes musical director Greg Sudmeier, choreographer Karen Dito, stage combat director Durand Garcia, costumer Dominique Bretin-Sewell and set designer/technical director Lee Basham.

The theater is at 1285 E. Hillsdale Blvd. Tickets are $17 to $34. Call (650) 349-6211 or visit www.hillbarntheatre.org.  

jgross@examiner.com  

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