The Knight Errant of Quogue

Pictured Above: Kyle Breitenbach, Andrew Gasparini and Matthew Conlon in rehearsal for “Man of La Mancha,” opening March 21 in Quogue. | Tom Kochie Photo for HTC

In the 35 years since the Quogue-based Hampton Theatre Company began, they haven’t once produced a musical. It’s an ambitious and quixotic undertaking, requiring space and tech on a scale much larger than what’s needed to produce a straight play.

That’s why “Man of La Mancha,” the 1965 Broadway hit about the far-fetched adventures in chivalry of the fictional Spanish nobleman Don Quixote, is the perfect first musical for a theater company long known for its pursuit of great plays. 

“It feels like a play with music to me. It’s not one of the traditional musicals,” says Edward Brennan, who is directing the HTC production and who has played the role of Don Quixote before. “It has such iconic music like “The Impossible Dream,” which we felt was not only an artistic success but a commercial success.”

The play opens March 21.

Matthew Conlon, Alyssa Marino and Rick Grossman in rehearsal for “Man of  La Mancha,” opening March 21 in Quogue. | Tom Kochie photo for HTC

Mr. Brennan said HTC has received feedback from its patrons and theatergoers that they’d like to see a musical, which would make good use of recent updates to the sound system in their space at the Quogue Community Hall.

“I don’t know how often we’ll do it, but it’s a great time to take a leap,” he said.

“Man of La Mancha,” is loosely based on the classic Miguel de Cervantes novel “Don Quixote.” The play takes place in a dungeon during the Spanish Inquisition, in which the imprisoned author enlists fellow prisoners to act out Don Quixote’s tale of chivalry and righteousness in the face of the ridicule of jaded denizens of a cynical time. 

The technical challenges are many in a room that is essential a community meeting room-turned-theater. With 12 actors and plenty of action, the set would need to have plenty of space to allow them to play. 

“We’ve opened up the set in a big way, with a large playing space including different levels,” said Mr. Brennan.

This production will also make use of an accomplished six-member pit orchestra, conducted by Musical Director Amy Federico McGrath. The orchestra will be backstage, and actors will be wearing body mics to handle the higher ambient sound levels when using live musicians.

“We’re working with a sound designer to figure out the right balance,” said Mr. Brennan.

Many members of the cast are newcomers to the HTC stage, a mix of equity and non-equity actors who responded to an open casting call.

Longtime HTC leading man Matthew Conlon plays the Cervantes/Quixote role.

“He’s doing beautifully. He was born to play this part,” says Mr. Brennan.

Kyle Breitenbach and Elora Von Rosch in rehearsal for “Man of  La Mancha,” opening March 21 in Quogue. | Tom Kochie photo for HTC

Elora Von Rosch, an equity actress setting foot on the HTC stage for the first time, plays Aldonza/Dulcinea, the prostitute whom Don Quixote insists is a lady in distress in need of saving. 

“She has this raw energy that’s perfect for Aldonza, and a really striking voice to go with it,” said Mr. Brennan. [She and Mr. Conlon] “have built a relationship in rehearsals that’s really palpable.”

The role of Don Quixote’s sidekick, Sancho, is played by Rick Grossman, who has played Sancho in many previous touring productions and has been involved in Broadway national tours, including “Bullets Over Broadway.”

Mr. Brennan is working, in rehearsals, to clearly delineate the two threads of story running through “Man of La Mancha,” of both the imprisoned author and his fictional character.

“This show is about storytelling, and for me that involves being really clear for the audience about the transitions from story to reality,” he says. “Some of that will happen with lighting and staging, and with the choices the actors make.”

“I find the story to be inspiring,” he said. “The way Quixote looks at the world is genuine and heartfelt. I think people see him as childish, and I don’t think it’s in a good way. His positive intent is what’s inspiring for me — his genuine love of people and the world, and the innocence he has.”

“Man of La Mancha” opens on Thursday, March 21 and closes on Sunday, April 7 at the Quogue Community Hall, 125 Jessup Avenue, Quogue. Performances are on Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. There will be an additional Saturday matinee at 2:30 on April 6.

Tickets are $40 for adults, $35 for seniors 65 and over, $25 for theatergoers under 35 years old and $20 for those under 21 years old. Tickets are available online at hamptontheatre.org or by calling OvationTix at 866.811.4111.

Several libraries are offering dinner and theater packages throughout the run. Southampton’s Rogers Memorial Library has organized a 5 p.m. dinner at the Stone Creek Inn in East Quogue at 5 p.m. on Friday, March 22 for $70 per ticket, which includes dinner, tax, tip and a theater ticket. The Hampton Bays Library is organizing a 5 p.m. dinner preceding the show on Thursday, March 28 at 1 North Steakhouse in Hampton Bays for $70. 

The Quogue Library is offering a dinner package with The Quogue Club at Hallock House at 5 p.m. on Friday, March 29 for $70.

The Hampton Theatre Company is holding a lunch and theater package with The Quogue Club at Hallock House on Saturday, April 6. Lunch begins at 12:30 p.m., followed by a 2:30 p.m. matinee. Tickets to that event are $75.

—Beth Young

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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