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Don Quixote returns to New York, Only this Time in Mandarin

By Sicheng Luo  (People's Daily Online)    13:13, May 17, 2019

Dress Rehearsal Scene: On Don Quixote's Deathbed. Shengquan Jin as Miguel De Cervantes (Don Quixote), Yudun Wang as Cervantes' Servant (Sancho), Taicheng Li as Padre, Yunchan Zhou as The Housekeeper on 18th, Dulcinea (Aldonza) on 19th, Aileen Jialing Wu as Duke/Dr. Sanson Carrasco, and Hailun Zhou as Antonia.

The Mandarin version of the classic musical Man of La Mancha, which is originally in English, will hit the stage on May 18 and 19 at Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Peter Norton Symphony Space, in New York City.

With a book by Dale Wasserman, lyrics by Joe Darion, and music by Mitch Leigh, this musical Man of La Mancha is an adaption from Wasserman's 1959 teleplay I, Don Quixote, which is in turn inspired by Miguel de Cervantes' tremendously important 17th-century novel Don Quixote. This musical uses the structure of "a play within a play" to intertwine the adventurous experience of Don Quixote, the "mad" knight, and the mentality of Cervantes. This structure allows the audience to travel back and forth in time, thus transcending the boundary of space and temporality, and vividly presents this classic story to the audience in this modern context.

Dress Rehearsal Scene: Don Quixote at the Inn. Shengquan Jin as Miguel De Cervantes (Don Quixote), Yudun Wang as Cervantes' Servant (Sancho), Dan Herlen as Governor, and Manli Li as Maria/Fermina.

As one of the most enduring works of musical theatre, the original 1965 Broadway production of Man of La Mancha ran for 2,328 performances and won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and has even been revived four times on Broadway. With its incredible influence, this musical has played in many other countries around the world, with productions in various languages, including Mandarin. The Mandarin version of Man of La Mancha produced by Seven Ages with the script adapted by Cheng He has expanded the Mandarin musical market in China and has presented more than 400 performances.

Yihui Shen, the producer of this Mandarin version of Man of La Mancha, talked about the project began. "I was so upset at the beginning of this year to know that the Mandarin version of Man of La Mancha which has brought me so much joy and amazement, was closing in China. I don't want to see this Mandarin version end its life, just like Don Quixote in the play. I believe this work should have a larger space to extend its influence and empower more people 'to reach the unreachable start!' (a quote from the play). I have met many great people working on musicals in New York but haven't found an opportunity to gather us together. So, I told myself, this project could be a start."

The experience of participating in this production means a lot to the team, which is mostly made up of Chinese students studying in New York. The music director Kun Liu said, "Producing the Mandarin version of this musical, on the one hand, provides the Chinese community in New York an opportunity to appreciate the charm of musicals in Mandarin and on the other hand, this project enables us, who work on Chinese musicals in New York, to strengthen our bond."

Dress Rehearsal Scene: Aldonza and Muleteers. Daiyao Zhong as Dulcinea (Aldonza) on 18th, The Housekeeper on 19th, Siyuan Cai as Pedro, Zihao Liu as Anselmo, Tsui C Wang as Tenorio, and Yu Xia as Jose/Paco.

Zhenyu Yao (Victor), the director of this production, also shared how the experience working on this project resonates with the story of Cervantes, one of the main characters in the play, "Seeing Cervantes put on a play and create a world in front of fellow prisoners mirrors the process of the work we do as theatre artists. We create something out of nothing. We build worlds out through inspiration and collaboration."

This highly anticipated Mandarin version of Man of La Mancha carries with it the aspirations of many talented and passionate young people. Shen told us that because they were in a foreign country where they knew that they could reproduce such a classic musical in their native language, everyone was so excited. At the time, one team member was heard saying, "We feel so filled with strength. We are undefeatable."

The team wanted to allow as many people as possible to be involved in the upcoming production, and wish to provide the potential audience with a series of opportunities such as open rehearsals, to engage with the production process to move musical theater away from the label of "niche artform", and implement the idea of "theatre for all".

Dress Rehearsal Scene: Golden Helmet. ShengquanJin as Miguel De Cervantes (Don Quixote), Yudun Wang as Cervantes' Servant (Sancho), and Kaidi Li as Barber. 

The author Sicheng Luo  currently studies Comparative Literature and Translation Track at Brown University, and will graduate in 2020.

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(Web editor: Liang Jun, Bianji)

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