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Well-known musical will be on Bethel stage for Fall Festival

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – One of Broadway’s most popular musicals returns to the Bethel stage as the major performance for this year’s Fall Festival.

Man of La Mancha – which was last a Bethel production in 1982 – will take place in Krehbiel Auditorium Oct. 17, 18 and 19, at 7:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 2 p.m., respectively.

With a book by Dale Wasserman, lyrics by Joe Darion and music by Mitch Leigh, the original 1965 Broadway production ran for 2,328 performances and won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Man of La Mancha has been revived four times on Broadway, becoming one of the most enduring works of musical theater.

It is adapted from Wasserman’s non-musical 1959 teleplay I, Don Quixote, in turn inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ 17th-century masterpiece Don Quixote.

Man of La Mancha tells the story of the “mad” knight, Don Quixote de La Mancha, as a play within a play, performed by a failed tax collector and author-soldier-actor named Miguel de Cervantes and his fellow prisoners while Cervantes awaits a hearing with the Spanish Inquisition.

Songs from the musical include “The Impossible Dream” and “It’s All the Same.”

Ethan Koerner directs the 2014 Bethel production. He is director of theater as a one-year replacement for John McCabe-Juhnke, professor of communication arts, who is on sabbatical, but Koerner is not a stranger to the college.

He served as adjunct faculty in 2013-14 as an instructor for Theater Practicum and was scenic designer and technical director for last year’s Fall Festival play, You Can’t Take it with You, as well as the spring 2014 opera, The Pirates of Penzance.

Koerner in consultation with other Bethel faculty chose Man of La Mancha earlier this year as the Fall Festival musical for 2014.

Of the three options, “this was my top choice from the beginning,” Koerner said. He added that he had some familiarity with the musical, having been part of another production, plus it had the smallest cast of the three, which makes it easier to pull off at a small college and with less than the usual amount of rehearsal time.

“What drew me to Man of La Mancha is that it’s fun, it’s funny, it has great music and it’s a classic tale,” Koerner said. “But it also has some darkness and serious issues. It hits a lot of things at once.”

Riley King, senior music major from Lawrence, has the title role of Cervantes/Don Quixote.

King’s most recent role on the Bethel stage was as the Pirate King in last spring’s production of The Pirates of Penzance.

“I like that [Man of La Mancha] isn’t just a musical about Don Quixote, it also tells a bit about the author,” King says. “Learning more about Cervantes makes the concept of Don Quixote feel much more powerful. There is a moment in the musical where you realize just how difficult the real life of Cervantes had been and it makes the character of Don Quixote feel more substantial and meaningful to me.”

This is King’s third experience with a performance that tells the Don Quixote story.

“In high school, my orchestra played a setting – in particular I remember the movement that depicted the fight with the windmill,” he says. “Last year, I started working on a French art song cycle that depicts Don Quixote. It’s a lot of fun seeing all the different ways to tell one story.

“I really enjoy Ethan’s directing and the cast is a great group,” he adds. “Being a senior, I have a lot of friends in the cast that I’ve spent so much time bonding with, [but it’s also] exciting to me that there are freshmen I went to Broadway at Bethel with. Working on stage with them in college brings back some fantastic memories.”

Sophomore Cameron Ponce, Elkhart, Indiana, a transfer student new to Bethel this year, plays the role of the faithful manservant, whom “Don Quixote” calls “Sancho Panza.” Emily Luedtke, senior from Wichita, plays Aldonza.

The rest of the cast is Luke Loganbill, senior from Moundridge, as the Governor/Innkeeper; Nikolai Krahn, senior from Mountain Lake, Minnesota, as the Duke/Carrasco; Leland Brown, senior from Galveston, Texas, as the Padre; Abigail Christensen, sophomore from Gardner, as Antonia; Kate Joliff, freshman from Newton, as the Housekeeper; Leah Towle, senior from Lawrence, as Maria; Kaitlin Schmidt, senior from North Newton, as the Barber; Megan Meyer, sophomore from Valley Center, as Fermina; Julia Campfield, junior from Wray, Colorado, as the Captain; and Matthew Graber, Freeman, South Dakota, Reece Hiebert, Walton, Austin Regier, Newton, Kyle Riesen, Beatrice, Nebraska, Mariel Robert, Osage City, Tyler Shima, Topeka, Chase Stucky, Moundridge, Drew Trollope, Kingman, and Sutton Welsh, Wichita, as muleteers, prisoners, guards and dancers.

Production staff is William Eash, professor of music, music director; Danika Bielek, director of the Bethel College Academy of Performing Arts, choreographer; Abigail Phillips, Maple Hill, stage manager; Madison Lockhart, Topeka, and Josh Lewis, North Newton, assistant stage managers; Leah Towle, costumes; Dylan Jantz, Newton, lights; Ben Carlson, Hurley, South Dakota, sound; and Kate Joliff, props.

Ticket prices are $12 for adults, $10 for non-Bethel students and adults age 65 and older and $7 for children (ages 3–12). Bethel students pay $2 for the Friday and Saturday shows and can attend free on Sunday.

Tickets are available at the bookstore weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. or in the Fine Arts Center ticket office starting one hour before each performance, subject to availability. Call 316-283-2500 (credit card orders only).

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2014-15 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2014-15. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

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