Man of la mancha
Jordi Muixí is a Catalan actor, director, and voice coach. He is currently staging a production of the Broadway musical Man of La Mancha in English for students of English in Spain. We met up with Jordi a few days after seeing the show to talk about the project.
iT’s: How would you like your coffee?
Jordi Muixi: I’ll have a café con leche, thanks.
iT’s: First, let me say that I really enjoyed the show.
iT’s: So what made you decide to put on a production of the Broadway show, Man of La Mancha, in English, for teachers and students in Spain? Isn't it a little quixotic?
J.M.: Probably. But seriously, first of all, I decided to do it in English because I don't like translations. I think that when you translate to play, especially a musical with song lyrics, you always lose something in the translation. And so when I was looking for a show to do, for some reason, Man of La Mancha came to mind. I thought it would be the perfect show for a school audience here in Spain because if we have problems speaking and singing in English, it's OK because the show is set in Spain. I mean, we can never speak English as well as a native speaker but if we do something that takes place in Spain then the problem of the accent is solved.
It might be interesting for everyone to know that on Broadway accents are very important and they would never present a character from a certain place without making sure he or she talks how they talk in that area. In the last production of Man of la Mancha on Broadway, Brian Stokes Mitchell was rolling his R’s in The Impossible Drrream.
Also people here know the story. So if the school kids don’t know much English, they at least know what is happening on stage.
iT’s: The actors in the show are also the musicians and all the music is played live. Was it easy to find the right people?
J.M.: Not at all. We did auditions and saw a lot of actors who weren’t musicians. But then we decided to find musicians who wanted to act. For example, the bass player and the guitarist were both suggested by Bárbara Granados, the musical director. For me, the most important thing was that they were willing to work and not treat the project as just another job.
iT’s: And could many of them speak English?
J.M.: Not really. One of the actors lived in London for a while and I've worked in New York but we’ve all had to work on our diction. We've been doing Skype sessions recently, working on our diction and you can really notice the improvement. You have to remember that most members of the cast have never performed as actors. They’re really musicians. They were totally terrified when we started. But now they’re amazing.
iT’s: Did you have to make a lot of changes to the show to adapt it for this production?
J.M.: Originally it was a three-hour show and it was written for at least thirty-something characters. Our production runs for 70 minutes and there are 8 performers so we had to cut a lot. But there's one thing that I learned when I was in a production of Sweeney Todd, the 2995 Catalan production. Did you see it?
iT’s: With Constantino Romero? Yes I did. It was excellent.
J.M.: I was in that show, and working with Sondheim I learned something very important. The story of a musical has to flow. These days a lot of musicals start telling a story and then there's a song.
iT’s: You mean the songs stop the action?
J.M.: Yes exactly. And I think with Sondheim, the songs keep the action going so the plot isn't interrupted. So when we did the cuts to the script we tried to do it in a way that we could keep the action going. We also realised we had to cut some songs. It was a big dilemma deciding how to do that. Then we decided that maybe we shouldn't cut the songs but do a little bit of all of them instead. In one of the songs for example, as soon as you know what the lyrics are saying, you don't need to hear it sung four times. It's like opera. It's very difficult to direct an opera because the characters mainly sing the same lyrics over and over again. I get bored going to watch opera. I prefer to listen to it. I think we've only got one song that is as it was written in the original show.
iT’s: How do you think young people in Spain feel about Quixote and Cervantes today?
J.M.: I think it's like Shakespeare in Britain. A lot of people feel lost with so many words. I had the same problem when I was at school. But at the same time you could get into the characters and understand their emotions. That's another reason why we've tried hard to keep the story going – to make it easier to understand.
iT’s: You have a very small role in the show.
J.M.: Quixote – yes.
iT’s: Can you describe your character?
J.M.: That’s difficult. He says that what's important is the quest and it doesn't matter if you win or lose in life so long as you follow the quest. And I think he's somebody who fights for his principles. You know, I think Quixote existed before Cervantes brought him to life and still exists today. When you see the protestors sleeping in Plaza Catalunya, trying to change the way the world is functioning. I think that some of them, not all of them, but some of them are Quixote. You know, he reads all these books and he becomes like the characters in those books. The problem is that he wants to be something that hasn’t existed for centuries. Finally he goes crazy although I don't like that word because you never really know who is crazy. Is he crazy or are we? Basically, he’s someone who wants to change the world.
iT’s: Which brings us to the show's most famous song, The Impossible Dream. How did it become so famous?
J.M.: I don't know but everyone has sung that song. If you have the chance, go to YouTube where you can see Brian Stokes Mitchell explaining the structure of the song to some kids. It is so funny. Because musically it goes … (he starts singing) ... and then when you think you are done with it and you relax, it all starts again. He says it's exhausting. But it's amazing, you know. I think most American standards come from musicals.
iT’s: People often say that singing is a good way to practise English. Is that something you've found?
J.M.: Yes, definitely. I learnt a lot of English through songs. English is such a rich language and songs are full of metaphors and idioms and phrases that you don’t come across in everyday language. For me, getting into English through song introduced me to a whole new world of thoughts and images. I also think that when you are working in a language that isn't your mother tongue, the way you approach it and the way you behave is different than the way you act in your own language. Words don't have the same meaning or importance in your own language. I mean, for example, if you say ‘I love you’ in your own language, it doesn’t feel so special because everyone says it. But if you have to connect with somebody in a language that isn't your own then it's much more important and special. So the way you communicate is different. That has made me love English even more.
If you'd like more information about Jordi Muixi's production of Man of La Mancha, write to Èvic Produccions (email@example.com) or visit the company's website at www.evicproduccions.com.