Don Matthews, left, and Jon Oles appear in 'Man of La Mancha' at Randall Theatre in Medford. - Photo courtesy of Rodney Rampy

'Man of La Mancha'

The inspiring story and soaring music of the award-winning Broadway musical "Man of La Mancha" is coming to Medford's Randall Theatre Company.

"Man of La Mancha" is about the sanity of being insane. Don Quixote, the impossibly chivalrous knight, obsessively pursues ideals of truth, justice and love. In a world that is ugly, cruel and selfish, Quixote sees beauty and nobility in everything because that is what he wishes to see.

The classic story of righting wrongs, idealized love and forgiving your enemies opens with a gala dinner at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30, at Randall Theatre, 10 Third St., Medford, with the performance at 8 p.m. Tickets to the gala cost $22 and include dinner. Tickets to the Aug. 30 performance alone cost $15.

Other performances are set for 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, and Thursdays through Saturdays, Sept. 5-7 and Sept. 12-14. Matinees are set for 1 p.m. Sundays, Sept. 1, 8 and 15. Reserved seats cost $15; pay-what-you-want tickets will be available 30 minutes before show times. Advance tickets can be purchased online at www.randalltheatre.com or by calling 541-632-3258.

"Man of La Mancha," written by Dale Wasserman, with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion, is based on Miguel de Cervantes' 17th-century, picaresque novel "Don Quixote." The show opened on Broadway in 1965 and won five Tony Awards, including best musical, and ran for nearly 2,500 performances. It's been revived on Broadway stages four times.

The Randall Theatre production stars Don Matthews as Cervantes/Quixote, Pam Ward as his idealized love Aldonza/Dulcinea and Jon Oles as the sidekick, Sancho. Toni Holley directs with musical direction by Brian Alex Thorn.

Matthews is a veteran Rogue Valley actor and singer and is host of the morning classical music show on Jefferson Public Radio. He first played Don Quixote, "the knight of the woeful countenance," in Camelot's 2006 production of the show. Matthews says he has always admired the character.

"It's a story for anyone chasing their own impossible dream, going against the current," Matthews says. "He sees people differently, and those around him begin to see themselves through his eyes."

"I believe the essence of 'Man of La Mancha' is distilled in Don Quixote's explanation of why he does what he does," Matthews says. "He says, 'I wish to add some measure of grace to the world.' We all can try to change our world, to do the impossible. The dream still exists."

Matthews says he agreed to play Don Quixote at Randall when he learned that Ward had been cast as Aldonza.

"I was intrigued by the possibilities that casting Ward brings to the Aldonza character. When Aldonza is cast as a mature woman, the brutality toward her becomes horrific. The sexual element is removed; it is purely an act of violence."

This production of "Man of La Mancha" is Holley's debut as a director. Holley is sister of Randall Artistic Director Robin Downward. She moved to the Rogue Valley in March of this year from Santa Rosa, Calif.

"I've worked for years in all kinds of technical theater jobs," Holley says. "I've been a performer, designed costumes and scenery, worked the front of the house. I came to help Robin fulfill his vision for the Randall Theatre."

Holley says the task of directing a show as large-scale as "Man of La Mancha" has been eased by both Matthews and Ward having played their respective roles in other productions.

"They came into rehearsals really knowing their characters, as well as knowing the dialogue and music," Holley says.

She also is enthusiastic about Oles playing Quixote's loyal friend Sancho.

"They make a great pair," Holley says. "They look wonderful together. Quixote is supposed to tower over the shorter Sancho, and Don certainly does."

The show has a cast of 13, with the other actors playing multiple roles.

"With such a large cast, we created a production design of lots of levels, using platforms and stairs," says Holley. "We've used every inch of the available stage."

Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at rbkent@mind.net.

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