REVIEW: Incline’s “Man of La Mancha”

This is an excellent production of my most favorite musical.  This team successfully melds bitter satire, social commentary, pathos, idealism, and whimsy with an inspired cast punctuated with a wonderful score.

Review by Doug Iden

An assortment of Spanish rapscallions’ thunder onto the Incline Theater during this solid mounting of The Man of La Mancha.  Winning five Tonys in 1965 including Best Musical and Best Score, it remains a musical classic.

Plot and Characters

Based upon the literary master work Don Quixote de La Mancha, the story follows author Miguel de Cervantes’ (Rick Kramer who also plays Quixote/Quijana), currently in prison due to the Spanish Inquisition.  The inmates steal Cervantes’ manuscript of Don Quixote in hope of ransoming it. Cervantes is forced to reclaim it by telling the story, using the inmates as characters in a play.  Then, the episodic story of Quixote unfolds as the demented but romantic “knight” literally and figuratively “tilts at windmills.”

Man of La Mancha at Incline
Cast of Man of La Mancha at Warsaw Federal Incline Theatre.

In the “play within a play” format, Quixote and his cheerful but world-weary servant, Sancho Panza (Douglas Berlon), encounter giants (actually, windmills), castles (actually, an inn) and the beautiful, pristine Dulcinea (actually, a serving wench played by Renee Stoltzfus.)  His (mis)adventures also include a fight with muleteers, a barber (Jeremiah Plessinger) whom he assumes is a knight with the “Golden Helmet of Mambrino” and an innkeeper (Dan Cohen) whom he believes is the lord of the castle.

Themes of Man of La Mancha

The original novel is a scathing indictment of the Catholic Church, rapacious nobility and idealistic dreams of romanticism which is only mildly addressed in the musical.  Here, the primary themes are a well-intentioned but deluded old man on his “quest” to achieve “good deeds” and nobility through knighthood.  He is ridiculed and taken advantage of by others but they are irreversibly changed for the better by his indomitable presence.  Ultimately, this is a story of redemption and rebirth.

Musical Highlights

The hit song “The Impossible Dream” (also known as “The Quest”) vocalizes the primary dramatic theme, performed very well by Kramer.  This song is the heart and soul of the piece and is later reprised in the poignant but stirring finale by the entire cast.  

As Cervantes is transformed into Quixote, he and Sancho declare their new found status with “I Am I, Don Quixote.” Quixote rhapsodizes his ideal vision of women with “To Each His Dulcinea” while the muleskinners mock the relationship with “Little Bird, Little Bird.”  Sancho begrudgingly admits that “I Really Like Him” while the Innkeeper derides him as the “Knight of the Woeful Countenance.”  Aldonza (sung passionately by Stoltzfus) decries her base existence with the bitter “It’s All the Same” and tries to force Quixote to see her realistically as “Aldonza”.  The family of Quixote (Johnathan Andrews, John Langley, Emma Massey and Madeline Stern) disingenuously implore “I’m Only Thinking of Him” while dreaming of his estate.

Man of La Mancha at Incline
Cast of Man of La Mancha at Incline.


There is a lot of comedy in the show. Some is dark with the derision of Quixote and the duplicity of his family.  But there are many light moments led by Sancho and a host of sight gags with props.  After Quixote’s initial entanglement with the windmill, his sword is now crooked and his lance is a tree branch. 

Production Team

Director Dee Anne Bryll skillfully blends the serious drama, comedy, and pathos of the story with the flamenco infused score by Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion led by Music Director Ryan Heinrich.  The main role is very challenging and complex since Kramer plays three different characters and is a lead singer as well.  You must believe in both the passion of Cervantes and the deluded idealism of Quixote/Quijana, and Kramer delivers.  Stoltzfus energizes Aldonza with an excellent singing voice.  Berlon as Sancho is delightfully upbeat and funny as he tries gently to redirect his Master. Andrews, as Dr. Carrasco, unctuously tries to control Quixote and the innkeeper (Cohen) reluctantly tries to appease the Knight’s wishes.  The cast is excellent.

The two-tiered set by Brett Bowling combines the cold, stony forbidding prison with the Inn and other scenes.  Props include Cervantes’ ubiquitous wardrobe filled with props and costumes  plus tables.  Some lighting highlights (designed by Denny Reed) include a chandelier with revolving lights that resemble a candelabra plus the illusion of the windmill.  Costumes (designed by Beth Bolling-Joos and June Hill) include prisoner’s rags, Renaissance noble outfits, priestly garb, Quixote’s armor, and Aldonza’s colorful dress.  The choreography (Cassidy Steele) is more dramatic than entertaining with an opening montage and the abduction scene with Aldonza and the muleskinners.  A highlight is the “ballet” prancing of the knight’s horses performed by Phoenix Bills and Grant Zentmeyer

Bottom Line

This is an excellent production of my most favorite musical.  This team successfully melds bitter satire, social commentary, pathos, idealism, and whimsy with an inspired cast punctuated with a wonderful score.  

Get Tickets to Man of La Mancha

So, dust off your shabby armor, sharpen your lance and gallop down to the Incline Theater. Immerse your romantic tendencies in The Man of La Mancha running through September 10.  For tickets call the Box Office (513-241-6550) or go online at:

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