The legendary tale of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza came to life this week as the Orange Community Players presented “Man of La Mancha” in their newly renovated theater. Many notable musical numbers are performed in this play within a play, with the most famous being “The Impossible Dream.”

The story is set in a Spanish prison vault at the end of the 16th Century. Cervantes, an actor and writer, is thrown in prison waiting to be questioned by the Spanish Inquisition. He is “put on trial” by the other prisoners so they can take his possessions, the most prized of which was a manuscript. As his defense he starts acting out the tale of Don Quixote and his side-kick Sancho Panza.

Doug Rogers was well cast as Cervantes/Quixote. He has an outstanding voice that lets you feel the depth of the songs and it was easy to slip into the belief that he was the mad knight Don Quixote.

Sancho Panza, the comic relief side-kick was played by Kevin Doss. I suspect he has “played the fool” before. If not, then he is a natural.

Alaniz Vásquez’s portrayal of the Governor/Pedro was reminiscent of watching the Clint Eastwood movie, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” He has captured the voice and mannerisms of Eli Wallach as well as any impersonator. That portrayal fit the role of the hardened criminal, the Governor, that “ran the show” in the prison.

Another “Hollywood link” was Tom Taliaferro who played Duke, Dr. Carrasco and Knight of the Mirrors. He has a resemblance to Peter O’Toole, who played the title character in the 1972 film version of Man of La Mancha.

Donna Rogers directed the production as well as played the lead female role of Aldonza.

Attention to detail was apparent when Don Quixote’s once straight blade was mangled after his bout with the windmill.

The setting for the entire play was the common room of the prison. Lights and props were used to change the scenes that were in the imagination of Cervantes, as he pleads his case to save his manuscript written about Don Quixote.
It was an entertaining production that kicks of their new season.

The company had been on hiatus for a year while the work restoring the playhouse took place. They are still working on finishing touches, but the new theater is open for business and the actors are anxious to get back to work.

You have three more chances to catch Man of La Mancha. The performances start at 7:37 and will be May 8, 9 and 10. The tickets are $15 dollars. For that price, you should be able to afford dinner too.

Auditions for the next show, “Broadway Fun for Funds V,” will be May 12 with the performances scheduled for May 29, 30 and 31. An evening of food, wine, song and dance for only $20.

They are also taking registration for their Young People’s Theater Workshop 2008 which teaches youths aged 6 through 18, acting, singing, dancing, auditions, make-up, costuming, stage combat, choreography and more. Everything an aspiring thespian might need to know. The cost is $25 and lasts five weeks with three performances at the end so they can apply their new skills.

Also scheduled this season is Once Upon a Mattress in August, Dearly Beloved in November and Nunsensations in April of 2009. There are also plans for an as yet not determined show in February or March of 2009 to be directed by Diana Hill.

Orange Community Players depend on funds from organizations and private citizens to bring the community such fine performances. Donations are tax deductible.

The theater is located at 708 West Division Street in Orange. Call 409.882.9137 for reservations.

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.