For the past 6 years, The Milwaukee Repertory Theater has kicked off their mainstage season with a large scale musical. With productions ranging in style from Cabaret to The Color Purple to Assassins to Next to Normal, area audiences have come to expect something sweeping and tuneful as the company’s season gets underway.
This year is no exception. Man of La Mancha is on the Quadracci Powerhouse Stage at the Milwaukee Rep. It’s the Don Quixote story retold and gave the world "The Impossible Dream" – one of the most recognizable musical theater songs of all time.
Although the life of the song has extended far beyond that of the musical, in many ways it is emblematic of the show as a whole. "I think about this play all the time about being about choices that people make and how the human spirit to choose to go back to that dream, even though everything around you is telling you not to. I think it's a beautiful message for where we are in the world right now," says James Zager, the movement and fight director.
Director Mark Clements says the process of creating this show has been difficult, in part because there are many characters who have only a few lines to tell the audience who they are and why they're part of this narrative. It's also a show that deals with complex feelings and imperfect characters, which can be difficult to develop.
"I think this is the hardest musical I've ever had to direct. Not in terms of size or amount of people on stage or any of that stuff. But just finding, what do you want the audience to feel at this moment in time, because sometimes there is no definitive answer to that," says Clements. "This is one of those pieces that if we get it right it has people getting the Kleenex out three-quarters of the way into the play, and not fully being able to articulate why."