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‘Man of La Mancha’ will be on stage Saturday

NATCHEZ — While Don Quixote stumbles around in “Man of La Mancha,” he stumbles upon a universal truth that is sure to make audience members smile during Saturday’s production of the musical as part of the Natchez Festival of Music.

“Man of La Mancha” tells the famous story of Don Quixote, who has made it his life mission to protect chivalry with his adorning squire Sancho Panza.

Quixote, who has illusions of attacks against him and his squire, has the ability to see good in people that society labels as outcasts.

That is most evident in the relationship Quixote forges with kitchen wench Aldonza. Aldonza, because of her station in life, feels less than noble, but Quixote, thinking she is his great love Dulcinea, teaches Aldonza that she is a worthy of love.

Jessica Medoff, who plays Aldonza and is returning for the third year to Natchez Festival of Music, said the fast-paced story will leave the audience full of hope and optimism.

“The story is so uplifting,” Medoff said. “We’ve all had hard times in life like the characters, but the message of the play is really that your life is what you make of it.”

Don Quixote, who is played by four-year festival veteran Will Earl Spanheimer, has a life outlook that is envied by Sanch, played by four-year festival veteran David Schnell.

Schnell said his character looks up to Quixote while they are together on their adventures.

“I really live through him,” he said. “I admire him and want to become more like him.

“It is his outlook that I want to emulate. And while it all may be a delusion, it is a harmless delusion.”

The production of “Man of La Mancha” will be a 7 p.m. Saturday at the Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $20, $35 or $45 and can be purchased by calling 601-446-6631, in person at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center or online at www.natchezpilgrimage.com.

The musical is the first large-cast production of the month-long Natchez Festival of Music, which happens annually in May.

Spanheimer said bringing together a production like this in less than two weeks requires a lot of commitment from the entire cast even before they arrive in Natchez to begin formal rehearsals.

“Relationships have to be formed quickly,” he said. “But everyone in the cast is great to work with and shares the same dedication to the show.”

Medoff said a lot of the chemistry between the cast is a result of the meticulous selection process by the festival’s artistic director, George Hogan.

“He is really great at picking people that work with the personalities of the other people in the cast,” she said. “We all share the same enthusiastic and hardworking attitude that makes something like this a success on stage.

Medoff said she and others continue to come back to Natchez year-after-year because they feel a part of the community and enjoy the chance to share their art.

“Natchez is full of such warm people,” Medoff said. “The festival is definitely a gift to this community, but the community who comes to watch us and remember us, that is our gift. It is really touching to perform for this community.”

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