Meet the Women Leading Man of La Mancha

And so we are offered a glimpse into the mind of a man who dares to dream and who chooses to use the power of imagination to overcome struggle and adversity. This stunning production is brought to life by a trip of women- Director Allison Narver, Music Director Cynthia Kortman Westphal and Choreographer Maria Torres. I asked them each to reflect on the experiences of bringing this musical to The 5th Avenue stage.

By Anya Rudnick, Director of Education and Outreach


ALLISON NARVER (AN): When David [Armstrong, Executive Producer and Artistic Director at the 5th] and Bill [Berry, Associate Artistic Director] asked me to direct Man of La Mancha I was thrilled. I adore the show and was dying to get my hands on this epic, funny, muscular, stubborn and gorgeous piece. It’s rare that as a director you get to work on a piece that is comic opera, a testament to the power of imagination and a powerful meditation on injustice and oppression. The musical was a deeply political piece upon its first inception. I want to honor that spirit. This feels especially urgent right now as our world reels from ethnic, religious and political turmoil. But as much as anything I love this play because it’s absurd, subversive, daring, epic and silly. My love for this show continues to grow the more I work on it. I am humbled to work with this design team, with Maria and Cynthia, and without a doubt the most extraordinary cast I could ever have in my wildest dreams imagined.

CYNTHIA KORTMAN WESTPHAL (CKW): I’ve always wanted to do this musical simply because I think it has a stunningly beautiful score and a timeless story.

MARIA TORRES (MT): It is a contemporary interpretation of the classic, which allows us to take this original story of hope and make it relevant today.


AN: In my opinion, great theater always releases the power of imagination in its audience. This entire piece is about the power of bold acts of imagination. It does not matter whether the character of Don Quixote is a burlesque of chivalry, or whether the hero is a madman or an actor. What matters is that he is indelibly set free in our imaginations and discovers for us a new quality about the human spirit. The prisoners in the play are ultimately captivated by Cervantes’ act of make-believe. Once engaged in that kind of imaginative play, they are swept up in the act of creating the story together. I hope to tell a good enough story that our audiences can engage fully with our play, just as the prisoners have.

CKW: Yes, it’s about the power of imagination, but I think even more, it’s about the power that we all have to find beauty and meaning in the face of adversity and struggle.


AN: When re-reading it and listening to the music again, I was struck by how relevant this show is to events in the world today. Much like the show, people around the world are held in detainment camps or prisons, arrested, and convicted without the benefit of a trial. Man of La Mancha has always been set during the Spanish Inquisition, a time when heretics were imprisoned without tests of any kind, were locked up in prisons, tortured and condemned. The resonance of this play made me want to create a contemporary setting—a place that could be a refugee detainment camp or some kind of political prison. Often when people are dislocated and moved to detainment/refugee camps, music-making, singing or dancing start very quickly. To me this is one of the most powerful symbols of what it means to make art in the face of grim brutality. The beauty of the human voice declares itself despite the bleakness that surrounds it.

CKW: This production is led by three strong women! In our field, it is still highly unusual to have a female director, choreographer and music director working together. Practically unheard of! This show has always been about Don Quixote, but I hope that we also tell more of Aldonza’s story. Yes, this is the story of the man of La Mancha, but in the end, I really see Aldonza as the one who has taken the biggest journey and made the most dramatic transformation.

MT: The production is set in a present day world with modern influences. My vision for the choreography is to reinvent a unique language of movement that is true to the alternate world being re-imagined.


AN: More than anything, I want the audiences to walk away feeling that dividing the world into “us” and “them” is no longer viable. To me, the power of the piece is the capacity to stare into the face of a cruel, oppressive force; choosing to create instead of destroy; to make a joke instead of suffering quietly; to make art in the face of brutality; and to stubbornly choose idealistic action in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. My “impossible dream” is that when we see images of people in deep pain or distress, we remember that it is only circumstance that separates us. We are one world and at times, the act of storytelling or creativity can lift us to approach the world with more courage and compassion. If people walk away enchanted by the beauty of the score, the power of the story and the magnificence of the actors onstage I will have done my job. And most importantly, despite the weighty themes above, the play is really funny and I hope people laugh a lot.

MT: I would love for the audience to be uplifted and inspired by the production and to walk away with an even greater appreciation for art and life.

CKW: What is powerful about the song “The Impossible Dream” is that it truly acknowledges that we cannot attain perfection in this life. And if utopia in this life cannot be achieved, what is the point? Some people would choose to not even try. But some—and this is what I hope for ALL of us—would continue to choose love over hate, hope over despair, courage over fear. I hope that audiences see, hear and feel that what Don Quixote called “The Quest” is our best defense against hate and despair and fear. I hope the audience walks away with hope in their hearts!

Meet the Dreamers: Lauren and Nick

Two more cast members are reaching for that unreachable star: Lauren Du Pree as Antonia and Nick DeSantis as Padre!


Lauren Du Pree

Lauren is returning to The 5th after making her debut with us last season in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. You may also have seen her recently in My Heart Is The Drum at Village Theatre. Regional credits include Kennedy Center, Studio Theatre, Ford’s Theatre and Signature Theatre. She’s also been seen on television in Biz Kid$. Find out more about Lauren at her website.

molm_nick-desantis-webNick DeSantis

You saw Nick most recently at The 5th in last season’s co-production of Assassins with ACT. Other 5th Avenue credits include Sunday in the Park…ELFCinderella and The Music Man. Some of Nick’s other favorite roles include Les Misérables (Thenardier), No Way to Treat a Lady (Kit Gill), Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (Lumière) and I Am My Own Wife.

Don’t miss Lauren, Nick and the rest of our dreamers in this epic, inspirational musical. Man of La Mancha runs October 7-30, 2016. Click here to find a full cast listing, more about the show and to purchase tickets.

Meet the Dreamers: Eric and Marlette

Two more cast members are running where the brave dare not go: Eric Ankrim as Duke/Carrasco and Marlette Buchanan as Maria/Housekeeper!


Eric Ankrim

Eric will be very familiar to our audiences. You may have seen him last year at The 5th in both our revisal production of Lerner & Loewe’s Paint Your Wagon and as clever ladder-climber J. Pierrepont Finch in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (for which he received a Gregory Award nomination). Other 5th Avenue credits include Jacques Brel… (also Gregory Award-nominated), CarouselFirst Date (another Gregory Award nomination!), Oklahoma, RENTInto the WoodsThe Rocky Horror Show and Miss Saigon. After originating the role of Aaron in First Date in Seattle, Eric also went with the show to Broadway!

molm_marlette-buchanan-webMarlette Buchanan

You may recognize Marlette from her previous role treading the boards at The 5th in Carousel. She’s been seen in many other regional productions, including Violet (ArtsWest), Passing Strange (ACT/Sidecountry), Once On This Island (Village), Ain’t Misbehavin’RagtimePorgy and Bess (Seattle Opera), Tin Pan Lady and Show Boat (Village). You may also have seen her in numerous television and film roles, including The DetailsFreedom Riders and Seattle’s Stars. Marlette is a graduate of Boston University and Fisk University.

Don’t miss Eric, Marlette and the rest of our dreamers in this epic, inspirational musical. Man of La Mancha runs October 7-30, 2016. Click here to find a full cast listing, more about the show and to purchase tickets.

Meet the Dreamers: Allen and Jose

Two more cast members are fighting the unbeatable foe with us: Allen Fitzpatrick as The Governor/Innkeeper and Jose J. Gonzales as The Barber!

molm_allen-fitzpatrick-webAllen Fitzpatrick

Allen is no stranger to our stage. You saw him most recently in our revisal production of Lerner and Loewe’s Paint Your Wagon last season, and as the big boss himself, J.B. Biggley in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying last season. Allen has over 40 appearances on Seattle stages to his name, 22 of those at The 5th (including Sweeney in Sweeney Todd). Allen has also been in 10 Broadway shows, including Les Misérables42nd StreetDriving Miss DaisyThe Scarlet PimpernelPassionMemphisSweet Smell of Success and Damn Yankees. He is the Artistic Director of the Icicle Creek New Play Festival. You can find out more about him on his website.

molm_jose-j-gonzales-webJose J. Gonzales

Jose is making his 5th Avenue debut with Man of La Mancha. He is a professional jazz pianist and singer, and has been involved in the theater scene in Seattle since 1989. His credits include In the HeightsThe Gypsy KingIn the Penal ColonyA Streetcar Named Desire and Nine.


Don’t miss Allen, Jose and the rest of our dreamers in this epic, inspirational musical. Man of La Mancha runs October 7-30, 2016. Click here to find a full cast listing, more about the show and to purchase tickets.


Meet the Dreamers: Brandon and David

Two more cast members are dreaming “The Impossible Dream” with us: David Quicksall as the Captain of the Inquisition and Brandon O’Neill as Pedro! Find out more about them below.

molm_david-quicksall-webDavid Quicksall

We’re pleased to have David back on our stage! You may have seen him previously in Titanic in ConcertCompanyThe Sound of Music and 1776. He has also appeared at Seattle Repertory, Intiman, ACT, Seattle Children’s Theatre, Book-It, Seattle Shakespeare Company and the Seagull Project.

molm_brandon-oneill-webBrandon O’Neill

Brandon is also returning to The 5th! Most recently, you saw him in Assassins, last season’s co-production with ACT. Other 5th Avenue credits include: CarouselPirates of Penzance and Guys and Dolls. He was in the Original Broadway Cast of Disney’s Aladdin; he joined the Broadway show after being part of the cast when it started here at The 5th. Other regional credits include: A View From the Bridge at Seattle Rep; Cat on a Hot Tin RoofRamayanaFirst DateMiss SaigonJoseph… and Cabaret. His voice can be heard nightly on Broadway, in London, and Australia as the Voice of the Cave of Wonders. Find out more about him at his website.

Don’t miss David, Brandon and the rest of our dreamers in this epic, inspirational musical. Man of La Mancha runs October 7-30, 2016. Click here to find a full cast listing, more about the show and to purchase tickets.

Meet the Dreamers: Annie, Richard and Davione

Check out some more of our amazing cast members! Today we’re meeting Annie Morro, Richard Peacock and Davione Gordon.

molm_annie-morro-webAnnie Morro

Annie is making her 5th Avenue debut with Man of La Mancha. Regional credits include Village Theatre’s My Fair Lady and UW Musical Theatre’s Sweet Charity.



Richard Peacockrichard-peacock-headshot

Richard is returning to his 5th Avenue family after spending five months dancing in Mumbai! Previous Seattle credits include A Chorus LineHow to Succeed… and A Christmas Story at The 5th, and Xanadu at Village Theatre.

molm_davione-gordon-webDavione Gordon

This is Davione’s second production with The 5th, having performed last in Carousel during our 2014/15 season. He is a native of Fort Washington, Maryland, and moved to Seattle in 2012, where he joined Spectrum Dance Theater and danced with the company for four seasons.


Don’t miss Annie, Richard, Davione and the rest of our dreamers in this epic, classic musical. Man of La Mancha runs October 7-30, 2016. Click here to find a full cast listing, more about the show and to purchase tickets.

The Cervantes Story: All Your Questions Answered!

By ALBERT EVANS, Artistic Associate

miguel-de-cervantesWHO IS CERVANTES?
Miguel de Cervantes is Spain’s most famous and influential author, the creator of Don Quixote, a book often cited as the first modern novel.

Cervantes was born in 1547 in central Spain. His father, Rodrigo, was an itinerant tradesman, a dreamer who dragged his family from Alcala to Madrid and across the arid plains of La Mancha, landing more than once in debtors’ prison.

Leonor was a powerful woman who worked tirelessly to put food on the table. She became the model for all the strong and determined women who populate her son’s novels.

Like his father, he was a dreamer — but also a smart and devoted student who was permitted to attend good Jesuit schools.

Yes, but after a few happy years his school days ended abruptly when a warrant was issued for his arrest. He had wounded a fellow student in an illegal duel. If convicted, his punishment would be a stay in prison and the loss of his right hand. To escape prosecution, Miguel fled to Rome.

A young man could clear his name through distinguished military service. At age 24, Miguel joined the Spanish navy —the famed Armada — and saw immediate action fighting the “heathen Turk” at the epic sea battle of Lepanto.

Spain won a decisive victory, but Cervantes was badly wounded and lost the use of his left arm. Now a war hero, he was given a medal and sent back to Spain.

Well, no. On the trip home he was captured by Barbary pirates and spent the next five years as a slave in Algiers, awaiting ransom.

His captivity was the central trauma of his life. Slaves who were thought likely to be ransomed were kept (barely) alive and spared the unrelenting horror of the unfortunates doomed to row in the ships’ galleys till they died at the oar.

Cervantes lived in filthy and degrading quarters, shackled in leg irons, and was frequently beaten and whipped and forced to watch the torture and execution of his companions in misery.

Part of him, however, stood mentally aside and observed his own agony with ironic detachment. Later, he would revisit his nightmare years in stories, plays, and poems, always fictionalized and seen through the eyes of different observers.

He invented a trick of being simultaneously “within and without” his characters and situations, a technique that would blossom brilliantly in Don Quixote.

But all that was in the future. Eventually his family scraped together the money for his ransom and Miguel came home, not to a hero’s welcome, but to the stony indifference which often greets returned soldiers. He was 33 years old, broken and broke.

He tried to make a living as a writer — in those days a nearly impossible task. For the next thirty years he penned poems, plays, and pastoral romances — all unsuccessful.

To survive, he found work as a purchasing agent for the Armada, then as a tax collector. But when he was accused of applying his talent for fiction to the account books, he landed in the Crown Jail.

He started it right there — in jail. No distractions, plenty of time to think. What more could a writer want?

Well, the first modern novel. Before Quixote, there were plenty of fanciful prose narratives, many of them stories of the long-dead Age of Chivalry featuring impossibly virtuous damsels and superhero knights battling armies, monsters, and demons. These tales were the comic books of their day — manufactured genre fiction with little resemblance to the real world.

Cervantes’s hero is an old man (of La Mancha) who has read so many of these books that his mind has cracked. He comes to believe that he is a modern knight-errant, chosen by God to sally forth and right all the wrongs of the world.

Initially it is. At first Cervantes invites the reader to laugh at the ludicrous old man venturing into the very unromantic countryside of La Mancha, mounted on a broken-down nag.

But then the Don chooses a simple farmer, Sancho Panza, to be his “squire.” And in the course of their calamitous adventures Sancho becomes the Mad Knight’s protector, admirer, and loving friend.

Through their conversations, we become privy to their thoughts, and they become truly “round” characters, with inner lives that go beyond the necessities of the plot. We argue with them; we take sides; we experience the book as both reader and participant.

Cervantes, like his contemporary Shakespeare, found a way to move beyond clichéd heroes and villains and create psychologically complex, conflicted characters — and that’s what makes Don Quixote the first modern novel.

el-ingenioso-hidalgo-don-quijote-de-la-manchaWAS THE BOOK POPULAR?
“Popular” would be an understatement. Published in January of 1605, The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha was an immediate success — as immediate as anything could be in those days when information, including books, had to be delivered by hand.

By February, crates of copies were on their way to the New World, where they sold briskly

As European dignitaries gathered in Spain’s capital to celebrate the birth of the king’s son, they were presented with special gift copies.  At the nightly festivities, “Don Quixotes” and “Sancho Panzas” thronged the costume balls.

Public readings were held in taverns and town squares so that the illiterate masses could enjoy the miraculous book that captured the laughter and sorrow of Spain, the book that was later called “the Spanish Bible.”

Before long, Don Quixote had been translated into French, German, English and Italian. Over the four centuries that separate its author’s life from ours, Don Quixote became the world’s most published work of literature and Cervantes the most widely-read author of all time.

A hack writer quickly jumped on the bandwagon with an unauthorized sequel, spurring Cervantes to write his own Part Two. In it the characters are aware of the rogue sequel and throw considerable shade on it.

SO — NOW CERVANTES WAS RICH?three-exemplary-novels
Don Quixote made fortunes — for the publishers and booksellers. The idea of copyright was far in the future, and Cervantes had to make do with his one-time sale to the first publisher. Somehow he kept writing and laughing and surviving hand-to-mouth until an admiring nobleman awarded him a small pension. In 1616, one year after the publication of Don Quixote Part Two, Miguel de Cervantes died of diabetes. He was 68.

Cervantes published several other fine books. But it is for Don Quixote—which critic Harold Bloom has called “the first and greatest novel”—that he will be forever loved and remembered.

Find out more about the production and cast of Man of La Mancha, running October 7-30 at The 5th Avenue Theatre.

Meet the Director: David Armstrong – The Secret Garden

David 7265

David Armstrong will be directing our spring production of The Secret Garden, which is a co-production with D.C.’s Shakespeare Theatre Company being performed there this fall. He recently directed our revisal production of Lerner & Loewe’s Paint Your Wagon.

What has been your favorite directorial experience?
Every show is my favorite when I am doing it but looking back I would say that our 5th Avenue production of Candide was one of my favorite experiences. The musicals that are very open to interpretation are usually the most rewarding.

Why this show? What is intriguing or interesting about it to you?
There are very few plays or musicals that I have directed more than once over the course of my car, but this will be my fourth time directing The Secret Garden (although I have not directed it since 1999). Everything about this show draws me in—the moving story, the incredible music and lyrics and most important the effect it has on the audience. To make people both laugh and cry in the same show is very satisfying. The musical expands several of the narrative threads and minor characters, and amplifies the Gothic mystery aspects of the novel. Like most stories, in that genre, our heroine Mary Lennox is brought to a big, dark, gloomy mansion—where secrets hide behind every door—and is thrust into a complicated relationship with a moody, tortured, romantic hero.

Our amazing team of designers are creating an atmospheric visual world that will transport Mary Lennox and the audience from Colonial India to the mysterious Misselthwaite Manor on the Yorkshire moors—and of course the magical secret garden itself. Our goal is to have the audience experience the world of the story through Mary’s young eyes.

Dream show to direct?
We have been developing a new musical based on Ann Rice’s novel Cry To Heaven. I would love to direct a full production of that in the near future.

What’s your favorite thing about Seattle?
I love Seattle’s unusual mix of big city culture and natural beauty. Very few cities have both, and hardly any have the quality of both that we have here.

DAVID ARMSTRONG is the Executive Producer and Artistic Director at The 5th Avenue TheatreSince his appointment in 2000, Armstrong has guided The 5th Avenue to a position as one of the nation’s leading musical theater companies, acclaimed for both its development and production of new works and its innovative stagings of classic musicals. As a director, he has created memorable 5th Avenue productions of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well & Living in Paris, A Room with a View; Oliver!; Candide; Hello, Dolly!; Sweeney Todd; White Christmas; Hair; Mame; A Little Night Music; The Secret Garden; Anything Goes; Company; The Rocky Horror Show; Pippin; Vanities; Yankee Doodle Dandy!; and Saving Aimee, which made its Broadway debut as Scandalous under Armstrong’s direction in November 2012. Prior to The 5th, he spent nearly 20 years as a freelance director, choreographer, and librettist. His work has been seen in New York, Los Angeles and at many leading regional theaters including The Kennedy Center, Ordway Center, Ford’s Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse, and New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse. From 1990 through 1995, he served as artistic director of Cohoes Music Hall in upstate NY. Armstrong has also written the books for the musicals The Wonder Years (winner of seven Drama-Logue Awards), Gold Rush, and Yankee Doodle Dandy!

If you loved Lerner & Loewe’s Paint Your Wagon this spring, don’t miss The Secret Garden in our 2016/17 season. It will run April 14-May 6, 2017. Subscriptions are available now, and single tickets will be available October 4, 2016 at 10AM. Click here to find out more!

Some parts of this interview courtesy Shakespeare Theatre Company

Meet the Dreamers: Dane, Maisha and Steven

Three more dreamers to meet today: Dane Stokinger, Maisha Mercee’ and Steven Sofia.

Dane Stokinger

dane-stokinger-webWe’re pleased to have Dane back with us for this production. Dane was last seen at The 5th in last season’s production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying as Mr. Gatch. He’s also been on our stage in A Christmas Story and Monty Python’s Spamalot. You may also recognize Dane from his roles at Seattle Children’s Theatre (the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz and Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) or his roles at Village Theatre (Jerry in Full Monty, Mike in Trails and Morris Brummell in No Way to Treat a Lady). He’ll be playing the role of Anselmo.

Maisha Mercee’molm_maisha-mercee-web

We’re thrilled to have Maisha making her debut at The 5th in Man of La Mancha! Mercee’ is a trained dancer of both the Debbie Allen and Alvin Ailey schools. She was also a dancer/teaching artist at the company CONTRA-TIEMPO.

Steven Sofia


We’re excited to welcome Steven for the first time at The 5th as well! Steven is currently the Artist-in-Residence at the UW’s Musical Theater program. He has been seen on Broadway in Chita Rivera’s The Dancer’s LifeKiss Me, KateChicagoBeauty and the BeastGuys and DollsBetty Buckley: An Evening at Carnegie Hall and Applause at Encores.


Don’t miss Dane, Maisha, Steven and the rest of our dreamers in this epic, classic musical. Man of La Mancha runs October 7-30, 2016. Click here to find a full cast listing, more about the show, and to purchase tickets.

The 5th Generates $27 Million a Year for the Local Economy

Originally published on Puget Sound Business Journal on September 7, 2016
By Patti Payne, Columnist at Puget Sound Business Journal

The 5th Avenue Theatre, one of the nation’s leading musical theater companies, has significant economic impact on the Seattle area. A numbers study done by the theater, in partnership with the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, indicates that The 5 th infuses $27.3 million annually into the local economy.

For every dollar spent on tickets, an additional 73 cents is spent on a variety of goods and services in King County, amounting to $13.3 million in the 2015-16 season.


Breaking that total down, it translates to “$1.6 million in lodging, $7.2 million in food and beverage, $2.6 million in transportation and $1.9 million in shopping downtown,” according to a statement regarding the study.

“Additionally, the theater has a $24 million operating budget, with $5.2 million going to vendors and $8.8 million invested in wages and benefits each year. As the largest arts employer in the Pacific Northwest, The 5th provides more than 800 jobs to professional actors, stage crew, musicians, artisans and administrative staff each season … ”

Another measure of success is this past season’s holiday show, “The Sound of Music,” which grossed more than $4 million in ticket sales, and was attended by more than 82,000 patrons — the most attended holiday show in the history of that theater.

This coming holiday show — “Disney’s Little Mermaid” has generated a lot of interest and is forecast by the theater to beat record set by the “The Sound of Music.”

Box office records indicate that more than 300,000 people went to one of the 219 performances at the historic theater during the past season, equaling more than $20 million in earned revenue for The 5 th.

Patrons who have long complained about an inferior sound system are happily anticipating the opening of the 2016-2017 season, which starts with the epic “Man of La Mancha,” on October 7, and a brand new state-of-the-art digital sound system.

In addition to improved sound, patrons will also find improved restrooms and new carpeting, all due to $5 million raised in the first phase of a $14 million capital campaign.