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'Man of La Mancha' is a dream come true for Mauricio Martínez

The noted Latino actor/singer stars in Asolo Rep's twist on the classic Don Quixote musical.

Mauricio Martínez stars in "Man of La Mancha," which opens May 13.
Mauricio Martínez stars in "Man of La Mancha," which opens May 13.
Courtesy photo
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Mauricio Martínez is a dreamer. He’s also a versatile actor/singer with an enviable track record in Mexico and the U.S. He’s appeared in plays, musicals, concerts, films and television in both countries — and released two Latin pop albums in his spare time. He’s earned a shelf full of awards, including a Mexican Emmy. 

None of those honors came easily. Martínez is a fighter, though his easygoing nature makes that easy to miss. He fought cancer and won — four times. His creative quest now continues in the U.S. 

Martínez is fiercely proud of his Mexican heritage. His fighting spirit is part of it; his impossible dreams are, too. Those dreams are what drive him. Many became realities. 

His dream of playing Don Quixote remained impossible for decades. But it recently came true. “Man of La Mancha” is coming to the Asolo Rep stage. Martínez will bring the musical’s quixotic hero to life. He’s one dreamer playing another. And he was happy to share what that means to him.

“Man of La Mancha” takes many twists and turns. What’s the heart of the story?

In the musical, it’s the story that the old Don Quixote tells in a prison. It begins in his younger days, when he was a country squire named Alonso Quixano. He’s very literate and he reads romantic novels from dawn to dusk. Alonso gets lost in dreams of knights and daring deeds in the Middle Ages. He wants to live in those dreams.

Alonso wants to turn back time — to a golden age that never existed.

Yes, exactly. Alonso decides to bring back the age of chivalry. So, he reinvents himself as “Don Quixote,” a knight-errant who longs to be a knight. To prove himself worthy, he goes on a quest to battle the forces of evil and right all the wrongs in this world. Unfortunately, Don Quixote lives in a dream world, not the real world. He doesn’t see things as they are.

He thinks windmills are giants. 

Yes. Don Quixote is missing a few marbles upstairs. In his heart, he’s still a heroic, noble soul and one of the greatest characters in all of literature.

How’d he wind up in a Broadway musical?

That’s very, very complicated. You want the short version?

That’d be great.

OK … In 1605, Miguel de Cervantes wrote “Don Quixote” — one of the greatest stories of all time. In 1959, Dale Wasserman adapted his beautiful epic novel as a beautiful teleplay. In 1965, Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion added music and lyrics, and turned it into “Man of La Mancha.”

The musical we all know and love. 

Yes. And it deserves our love! It has some of the most unforgettable songs in Broadway musical theater history. I sang them as a teenager while studying musical theater in New York City. Those songs have really stood the test of time! I feel so honored to be singing them again as an adult in my time.

What do you love about this musical? What’s the hard part?

I love so much about it … the language, the poetry, the story and the courage it gives you to dream. And “La Mancha” has so many great characters! But Don Quixote is my favorite. I love him! But he’s not so easy to play. I’m on stage for most of the time without taking a break. 

I play the same person — but it’s like playing three different characters! In “La Mancha,” Don Quixote is a younger man, a middle-aged man and an old man. That’s all me! So, I literally transform myself in front of the audience. I bounce back and forth in time, shift accents, change costumes. The role is also physically demanding. I wrestle with giants and windmills, get thrown off the stage, wave my sword and ride a horse. Don Quixote’s language is also very flowery and Shakespearean. For an actor, his dialogue is tough to speak. If you don’t get it right, you sound unnatural or phony.

You’ve played gangsters, scientists and Mayan priests. What inspired you to play Don Quixote?

Because it’s always been my dream! I’m not alone. For any Latino musical performer, Don Quixote is the role of a lifetime. In American musical theater, there are few iconic Spanish characters, and very few leading roles for male performers with a Spanish heritage. Right now, Molina from “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” Ché from “Evita,” and Bernardo from “West Side Story” are the only ones I can think of. But Don Quixote will always be the most iconic Spanish hero. 

What are your favorite songs in this musical?

All of them.  But “Impossible Dream” is my absolute favorite. What else could it be?

Is “Man of La Mancha” still relevant in 2023?

I think it’s more relevant than ever. The world of today can kill your dreams. You go on Twitter or just open the newspaper — and there’s war, racism, homophobia, exploitation, climate change. It’s all so hopeless and depressing. It’s so easy to give up. 

Nothing to be done.

Don Quixote wouldn’t agree. He didn’t give up. He wanted to inspire people to see the world as it should be. He was crazy enough to try to change the world. That’s a good kind of crazy.


What’s director Peter Rothstein’s take on this musical?

“Man of La Mancha” is a beautiful dream. Peter honors that dream. But he’s reimagined it with a brilliant creative choice. The original musical is set in 1605. And Don Quixote tells his story in a Spanish prison. Rothstein shifts it forward to 2023. Don Quixote is now in a modern American detention center — and surrounded by “Dreamers” (immigrants brought to the U.S. as children who have been caught in an American regulatory battle). He tells the same story — but you see it with new eyes. It’s so amazingly relevant and timely.

What’s your advice to any readers with impossible dreams?

“Man of La Mancha” dares you to dream. Your dream may be impossible today. In the future, your dream may come true. I know that from my own experience. I’m a Mexican immigrant, and I’m living the American Dream. I’ve also found acceptance for my gay orientation. That’s been an impossible dream for centuries around the world. Impossible dreams do come true! 



Marty Fugate

Marty Fugate is a writer, cartoonist and voiceover actor whose passions include art, architecture, performance, film, literature, politics and technology. As a freelance writer, he contributes to a variety of area publications, including the Observer, Sarasota Magazine and The Herald Tribune. His fiction includes sketch comedy, short stories and screenplays. “Cosmic Debris,” his latest anthology of short stories, is available on Amazon.

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