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Classic musical comes to town

Nic Corbett
Dominique Taylor/Vail Trail Charis Patterson, right, plays Aldonza in Vail Valley Theatre Company's production of "Man of La Mancha," based on the Miguel de Cervantes novel, at The Vilar Center for the Arts in Beaver Creek today and Sunday.
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VAIL – There aren’t many opportunities to see live musicals in Eagle Valley, especially not for cheap.That is why actor David Priboth said locals and visitors this weekend should take advantage of the two showings of “Man of La Mancha,” produced by the Vail Valley Theatre Company. “You’ll find that this show is produced as well as any professional theater group, and you see it at 25 bucks,” he said. “With a popcorn and a Coke, it’s almost what it costs you to see a movie these days.” However, the most important reason to come out is to support community theater, “so it stays around,” Priboth said. “Everybody’s a volunteer, except the director, and she probably doesn’t get enough pay as the babysitter,” Priboth said. “But people love doing it, so they’re willing to put in the time and effort to do well.””Man of La Mancha” is based on the novel published in the early 17th century, “Don Quixote,” written by Miguel de Cervantes. The novel, which Priboth said “almost runs as an autobiography,” follows Cervantes as he is thrown in a 16th-century prison to await trial during the Spanish Inquisition. To defend himself from the other prisoners, Cervantes tells the story of a crazy old man, Don Quixote, who thinks he’s a knight-errant, that windmills are a giant ogre he must battle, an inn is a castle, a dirty washcloth is a scarf of the finest linen, and a whore is a lady. While Cervantes weaves the story, he gets the prisoners to act out the parts.

“Almost anyone can see a dad or granddad in this thing,” said Priboth, who plays both the head prisoner and the innkeeper. “I’m not sure my kids wouldn’t think that I’m a current Don Quixote.”Turned into a musical in the 1960s, the Broadway show has since earned five Tony awards and become a classic. “It’s really a cute, cute story,” Priboth said. “It has just about every element of life that you could possibly imagine wrapped up in it in a very entertaining way.”Priboth rated the show PG-13 for some dark moments.”I think for people in Vail, kids who enjoy musical theater or young pre-adolescents, they’re going to be OK,” he said. Sean Pack, the show’s youngest cast member, is a sophomore at Battle Mountain High School and plays a prisoner and the Padre, who consoles Don Quixote’s family about their crazy relative. Pack, who started acting six years ago, said the best part of being in the production is all the singing he gets to do.”These songs are kind of difficult for me, and I really enjoy the challenge,” the 16-year-old Edwards resident said.

Pack said he enjoys the script’s cleverness, as well.Cervantes “says that it’s better to live life as it ought to be instead of living life as it is, and it’s kind of an interesting point,” Pack said. “It gets me thinking.”The show’s director, Beth Swearingen, said the highlight of the show is the music. Songs such as “The Impossible Dream” and “Dulcinea” are classics. The show’s cast is made up entirely of locals of all ages, from teenagers like Pack to retirees in their late 60s like Priboth.Most have several years of community theater experience. Some have Broadway experience. Swearingen played the lead role in “Cats” on Broadway. Lance Schober, who plays Cervantes and Don Quixote, has also been on Broadway and was schooled at Juilliard. “There’s so much talent in this thing that it cannot help but be good,” Priboth said. The 18 cast and six staff members have been rehearsing for about a month, spending every Saturday and Monday and Tuesday evenings at Battle Mountain High School.



“It’s a wonderful cast,” Swearingen said. “It’s a great group of people, and they’ve all been working just so hard.”The Vail Valley Theatre Company, which has been around for more than 20 years under different names, supports its summer production through its annual wintertime fundraiser, “An Evening on Broadway,” which features songs from various musicals picked to fit the year’s theme. “Ticket sales (for ‘Man of La Mancha’) probably don’t cover half of the production costs of the show,” Priboth said. “An Evening on Broadway” raises money for other community groups, as well. Because the public “responds very well” to the Broadway review, the event has been moved to the Vilar’s prime weekend in the winter, Priboth said. “This is a testament to the kind of work that the theater group is doing,” he said.

Nic Corbett can be reached at vdeditintern@vaildaily.comVail, Colorado


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