The impossible dreamer returned to the Modesto stage for the first time in a dozen years.
Modesto Performing Arts is putting on the classic musical "Man of La Mancha," rooted in the story of Don Quixote, at the Gallo Center for the Arts. The production was last seen in town in 2002, when local arts legends Erik Buck Townsend and Grace Lieberman took on the lead roles in a production of the show to mark Townsend Opera Players' 20th anniversary.
The new production features a new cast, new costumes and a new set yet stays true to the traditional story of a play-within-a-play during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. It runs through Sunday. "This is based on one of the most powerful stories ever written," said Modesto Performing Arts Director Paul Tischer. "Even people who say they don't know the story know 'The Impossible Dream.' It's a song everyone can relate to, having an impossible dream. We all dream, and that's what Don Quixote does he dreams."
The Modesto Performing Arts staging features veteran Merced actor Curtis Nelson as Don Quixote and Modesto actress Krista Joy Serpa as his love interest, Aldonza. Nelson and Serpa have been in a number of the company's productions, including last year's "42nd Street." Rounding out the main trio is Elk Grove actor Donn Bradley, making his Modesto Performing Arts debut as Quixote's loyal servant, Sancho Panza.
The cast of some 25 local performers has been rehearsing since mid-May for the musical. The original 1965 Broadway production won five Tony Awards, including best musical. The story of a mad knight and his various misadventures in pursuit of chivalrous deeds also was turned into a movie in 1972 featuring Peter O'Toole and Sophia Loren.
Tischer, who is directing the show, said despite the tale being set in the late 16th century, the story's themes remain timeless. From war and death to homelessness and poverty, the issues could be contemporary. While Quixote's life is filled with fanciful and humorous experiences, Nelson said, at its core, it is just about the human experience.
"There is everything from birth to death," he said. "It grabs hold of these emotions everyone experiences and condenses them into a wonderful story."
As the seen-it-all Aldonza, a server at the inn and a part-time prostitute, Serpa said her character at first resists the wild-eyed optimism of Quixote. But, like the audience, she eventually is won over by him.
"The whole point of his song 'The Impossible Dream' is to continue to believe in the good, despite adversity," Serpa said. "On a personal level, it's about believing in yourself. Only when you do that can you see your true beauty and worth."
Still, there is always the little issue of Quixote's sanity to contend with. As his pragmatic manservant Sancho Panza, Bradley said whether Quixote is nuts or not isn't really the point.
"I think society perceives dreams are crazy," he said.
"Most people look at idealists and say, 'Why are they not normal?' But (Sancho) follows him because he craves that better world Quixote sees."
Other events in Northern California
"Moonlight and Magnolias": Cloverdale Performing Arts Center presents its production of the nostalgic play about the filming of "Gone With the Wind" at 8 p.m. June tonight and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday at Raven Theater Windsor, 195 Windsor River Road, Windsor. $10-$20. raventheater.org/windsor.
Pep Love & Neokab Kompany: Get ready for an evening of classic underground Bay Area hip-hop, starting at 9:30 p.m. tonight at the HopMonk Tavern, 230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. Special Co Bill also performs. $10. 829-7300, hopmonk.com.
Southern Culture on the Skids: Cloverdale's free "Friday Night Live" outdoor concert series in the downtown plaza presents the eclectic trio from Chapel Hill, N.C., with Mud Soup opening, starting at 6:30 p.m. tonight. The series, sponsored by the Cloverdale Arts Alliance, runs through Aug. 29. cloverdaleartsalliance.org.
Preservation Hall Band: The Robert Mondavi Winery Summer Concert Series returns for its 45th year with classic New Orleans jazz at 7 p.m. Saturday. 7801 St. Helena Highway, Napa. $55-$85. 226-1395, robertmondaviwinery.com.
California Beach Boys: The tribute band plays from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday at the outdoor Village Court in Santa Rosa's Montgomery Village shopping center. Free. mvshops.com.
"Days of Wine and Lavender": Stroll through the lavender gardens and sip Sauvignon Blanc when Matanzas Creek Winery presents its 18th annual celebration from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. Music, food. 6097 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa. $95. matanzascreek.com
"Northern Lights": The Occidental Center for the Arts screens director Rob Nilsson's 1978 indie film about farmers in 1915 North Dakota struggling with big business at 5 p.m. Sunday. $8-$10. 3850 Doris Murphy Court, Occidental. 874-9392, occidentalcenterforthearts.com.
Sonoma Lavender Festival: Shop, listen to live music and sip wine and beer, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Sonoma Lavender Barn, 8537 Highway 12, Kenwood. $15 advance; $20 day of event; children younger than 12 free. Tickets: brownpapertickets.com, (800) 838-3006, ext. 1. Information: sonomalavender.com.
"Man of La Mancha," 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday at Foster Theater, Gallo Center for the Arts, 1000 I St., Modesto. Tickets: $19-$34. Call: (209) 338-2100 or www.galloarts.org