Man of La Mancha coming to Divadlo Na Pradle

Actor Lane Davies used to be so popular in Russia that he needed bodyguards

If you don't know the musical Man of La Mancha, certainly at some point you have heard its hit song “The Impossible Dream.” The play will be performed with live music at Divadlo Na Pradle on May 18–20 and 23–24, and June 4–5, 12–13 and 17.

Man of La Mancha is loosely adapted from Don Quixote, with author Miguel de Cervantes in prison, forced to act out his manuscript and taking on the role of Don Quixote in a play within a play.

It is being performed for the first time in the Czech Republic in English, and will have Czech surtitles.

Lane Davies has the starring role and also directed. He has extensive stage experience and also appeared on in the TV series Santa Barbara and Dallas, as well as an episode of Seinfeld. Earlier in his career he appeared in The Magic of Lassie, sharing the screen with James Stewart. Mickey Rooney also appeared in the film.

Davies says he prefers the stage, though, and working with actors he is familiar with. Man of La Mancha is one of his favorite plays. “I have done it on five other occasions, always with the same Sancho Panza,” Davies said, referring to actor Jerry Winsett, who will also be in the Prague production. Winsett has credits ranging all the way from the comedy series Newhart to an uncredited bar patron in Iron Man 3.

Davies was in Prague last year and performed in Richard III at Prague Castle and at the Estates Theater. The idea to stage Man of La Mancha in Prague developed during that time.

It is not you typical musical, Davies said. “There is no music in the prison scenes, except for the finale. So it is much more like a play with music than what you think of a Broadway musical being,” he said. The live music will be from piano, percussion and on-stage guitar. “We have some very strong voices in the cast,” he added.

The play is being staged by executive producers Prague Shakespeare Company and Bob Boudreaux with the support of the Cervantes Institute of Prague.

“Divadlo Na Pradle is almost ideal for this play. When you enter, you go down as if you are entering a prison,” Davies said.

While Davies did appear in several movies, he prefers soap operas. “The '80s were mostly soap operas for me. I loved it, but it wears you down,” he said, adding he had to learn anywhere from 15 to 40 pages of dialogue a day. At the same time, he was doing live theater in the evenings.

“And the '90s were mostly sitcoms for me. And Superman. I did about five episodes of Lois and Clark. I was one of their resident psychopaths,” he said. “It was fun, but I liked sitcom work better. It was more like a play, so for an old theater dog it is great to be able to do that and make real money at it.”

Episodic TV series that are shot with one camera like a film are less to his liking. “They move glacially slow. I lose patience with it. I have trouble finding the rhythm of it” he said.

He prefers to move faster. “We used to shoot 60 pages a day on Santa Barbara,” he said. A film or episodic TV show would shoot three of four pages at the most in one day.

Getting back to Man of La Mancha, he said the work suited him. “I realized that I am happiest as an actor doing this sort of thing. I realize in my semi-retirement that what I am is a regional theater guy who had a good run in LA. But my roots are in regional theater,” he said, adding that he would work with the same actors from season to season. “Everybody's got each others backs, and that is where I am happiest — with a good bunch of actors and actresses who care about each other.”

Davies is very well-known in some countries for the five years he spent on the soap opera Santa Barbara, which was a big hit in Italy, France, Spain and especially Russia. “We were on two hours a day in Russia. We were the second Western show to hit after the Soviet Union opened up. It was hugely popular. The first few times I went to Moscow, I had to have bodyguards. Which was fun for a while. Then I would go back to LA and ask people if they had any work,” he said. The fame has led to teaching engagements and film work in several countries of the former Soviet Union.

For theater roles, aside from some Shakespearean parts, he likes Equus, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and My Fair Lady. “Lion in Winter may be my favorite contemporary play,” he said, adding that he hopes to have the chance to appear in some of these again.

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