When a single song is as iconically associated with a musical as “The Impossible Dream” is with Man of La Mancha, it’s easy to wonder if that’s all there is to it. That’s absolutely not the case—and yet, in a fundamental way, it kind of is.
Indeed, everything that’s thematically resonant about this musical version of Cervantes’ Don Quixote leads to, and develops from, that song. As we see the author Cervantes himself (William Michals) in a Spanish prison, taking on the role of the mad would-be “knight errant” to perform for his fellow prisoners, the narrative explores the power of art to imagine hope when reason tells you there’s no cause for it. And as Don Quixote fancifully insists that the kitchen wench/prostitute Aldonza (Maria Eberline) is his sweet lady “Dulcinea” in another of Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion’s lovely songs, the ability of one person to see the potential in another becomes a powerful emotional hook.
In his farewell production as Pioneer Theatre Company’s artistic director, Charles Morey crafts another spectacular production with longtime set designer George Maxwell—a deep, imposing prison that never lets the threat of death completely escape even the most comic scenes with Sancho Panza (Daniel Marcus). Morey opts for simple staging choices for key moments, allowing Michals’ rich baritone to find the depth of “The Impossible Dream,” so that the song finds a place more significant than showstopper. There’s reason to embrace everything that comes before it, and everything that follows from it.
Pioneer Theatre Company:
Man of La Mancha
Pioneer Memorial Theatre
300 S. 1400 East
University of Utah
Through May 19