Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
Montana Actors’ Theatre has moved into its first production in the genre of musicals with the opening of the highly acclaimed “Man of La Mancha” Thursday. Frank Payn, who is co-directing the production with another MAT veteran, Casey Pratt, said he acted in the play as the guitar-playing muleteer when he was in college at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash. “I’ve always wanted to do it since then,” he said. The play, immortalized by a 1972 movie starring Peter O’Toole and Sophia Loren, portrays author Miguel de Cervantes telling the story of a befuddled Spanish nobleman who believes he is the knight Don Quixote while being “tried” by his fellow prisoners in a jail during the Spanish Inquisition. MAT, a community theater group started in Havre in the mid-1990s, has produced classics, comedies, dramatic works and original scripts, but never a musical. Payn said he proposed and MAT’s board approved doing Dale Wasserman’s musical last summer. The idea has taken hold, with Angela Pratt starring as Aldonza, Don Quixote’s Dulcinea, in “Man of La Mancha” planning to direct the Broadway adaptation of Disney’s musical “Beauty and the Beast” next winter. Payn added that, to the best of the cast’s knowledge, this is the first musical in Havre outside of Havre High School productions since 1987. That year, the Northern Montana College drama program produced “The Fantasticks” by Tom Jones. The play is suitable for the entire family, although the profession of Aldonza, a prostitute, is dealt with Openly throughout. Payn said that while it has serious concepts, it is a very funny play. “It has its central theme, but it also has many hilarious parts to it,” he said. Payn said the MAT production is coming together, but he would not plan a musical production in the summer again. Conflicts with summer plans made it hard to find cast members and coordinate the practices. That was especially putting together the 18-piece live orchestra for the production, under the direction of Rhonda Minnick. “That has been the hardest part,” Payn said. “Getting a cast together was challenging, but the orchestra was really difficult.” Many of the 22-member cast are veterans of MAT productions Casey Pratt is playing the lead, Cervantes/Quixote, as well as co-directing but some cast members are not. “They’re from 15-years-old all the way up to their 40s,” Payn added. He said some adjustments from the original Broadway cast have been made, with some members playing multiple parts. “The challenge with people playing multiple parts is the costume changes,” he added. “Some of the costume changes are really fast.” He said it has also been a challenging play ranging from building the set and preparing props and costumes to financing the production. “This is the most expensive show that MAT has ever done,” Payn said. Obtaining the rights and paying royalties to use the script cost the nonprofit group more than $4,000, he said. The play starts at the MAT/Montana State University-Northern Theatre in Cowan Hall at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, running through Saturday, and again at 7:30 p. m. July 24-27. The MAT lounge in the basement of Cowan Hall next to the theater opens at 6:45 p.m. Tickets for the production are $15 for adults and $10 for students and senior citizens.