'La Mancha' brings tale of Don Quixote
Sunflower fields, windmills, off-his-rocker knight Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza are returning to Seoul in “Man of La Mancha” at the Charlotte Theater in Jamsil, southern Seoul.
The classic Broadway show is a proven hit in Korea with its philosophical message and beautiful music. The story takes place in the late 16th century in Spain, telling the tale of Don Quixote as a play within a play told by Miguel de Cervantes in a dungeon.
It premiered here in 2005 and top actors including Cho Seung-woo, Ryu Jung-han and Jung Sung-hwa played the part of Cervantes/Don Quixote.
Three new actors — Hwang Jung-min, Seo Bum-seok and Hong Kwang-ho — will share the joint role this time.
Hwang is a veteran actor on the big and small screen as well as in the theater and his previous stage credits including “Nine” (2008) and Robbie Hart of “The Wedding Singer” (2009). His familiar yet acute image goes well with the author Servantes and mad knight Don Quixote.
At the press preview of the musical on Monday, Hwang performed “Man of La Mancha,” in which he transforms from Cervantes in a dungeon to Alonso Quijana, a mad old man who thinks he is Don Quixote. His portrayal of the knight is so elated that he is ready to fight a four-armed giant, or a windmill.
Seo is an experienced theater actor, who performed the roles of Frollo in “Notre Dame de Paris” and Yu-bong in homegrown musical “Seopyeonje.” He had openly said he wanted to play Don Quixote in “Man of La Mancha” and “The Impossible Dream” from the musical was one of his favorite songs, before he landed the role.
Seo sang “Dulcinea” at the preview. In this song he courts Aldonza, a maid attending the inn and prostitute, who he believes to be the lady Dulcinea, to whom he has sworn loyalty. Aldonza, played by Cho Jung-eun, seemed to be disconcerted by such an unfamiliar, kind approach.
Hong is the youngest of the three, but he is known for his impeccable voice, proven by his appearance as the Phantom and Raoul in “The Phantom of the Opera” and Jekyll in “Jekyll and Hyde.” Recently, he portrayed poet-doctor Zhivago in “Doctor Zhivago.”
Though a little awkward in unbecoming makeup and the wig of an elderly man, Hong’s singing meets expectations. When he sings “The Impossible Dream,” his voice fills the theater with Quixote’s beliefs and hopes “to fight the unbeatable foe” and “to love pure and chaste from afar.” He also showed he can be quite waggish in “Knight of the Woeful Countenance,” when he asks the innkeeper to dub him knight and revels in the fake ceremony.
All the three Don Quixotes have slightly different interpretations of the character, which gives the audiences a decision to make before reserving a ticket.
Actresses Lee Hye-kyung will alternate in the role of Aldonza with Cho. Lee reprises her part from the 2005 premiere and 2010, while it is Cho’s first time to play the part. Both delicately express how the part-time prostitute opens her mind as Don Quixote treats her with respect.
Other cast members include Lee Hun-jin and Lee Chang-yong as Sancho Panza; Seo Young-joo as the Governor, or the leader of the criminals in the dungeon; and Park In-bae as Carasco.
After three previews, the musical raises its curtain Friday and runs through Oct. 7. Tickets cost from 60,000 to 130,000 won. For more information, call 1588-5212 or visit www.odmusical.com.