Director Glenn Casale's The Man Behind LA MANCHA


Gil Kaan

Gil Kaan

Writer, Registered Critic


Don Quixote, with his sidekick Sancho and his Impossible Dreams will be fighting windmills at the Valley Performing Arts Center May 5 through May 7, 2017. Multi-award-winning director Glenn Casale will be helming his production with Davis Gaines reprising his award-winning role of Don Quixote. Better Lemons and I had the chance to question Glenn not only on his LA MANCHAs, but on his long resumé of hit shows he directed.

Thank you, Glenn, for agreeing to this interview.

I've looked through your extensive list of shows you've directed. Have you directed MAN OF LA MANCHA before in a regional theatre that's not included in your resume? 

Yes, this will be over a dozen times, and it is always a different and thrilling experience.

The original Broadway production of MAN OF LA MANCHA debuted in 1965. What productions of LA MANCHA have you seen and loved?

I saw the original and met Richard Kiley on a few occasions.  I have not seen it anywhere else.

You worked with Davis Gaines a number of times before, including in Music Theatre's CAMELOT a number of years ago, and before that, in a concert performance of MASADA, THE MUSICAL at the Shubert Theatre in 1998. Do you two now have a shorthand in communication after knowing each other for almost twenty years? 

Davis is a treat to work with.  It isn't that there is a shorthand with communication, but there is a great deal of trust with Davis, Nikki (Crawford), and Roland (Rusinek).  It allows you to trust that they will get there in a short time.

If we could turn back time, what would the more experienced, more theatre-savvy 2016 Glenn Casale say/do/direct differently to the 1998 Davis Gaines in MASADA, THE MUSICAL?

MASADA was a concert with a sixty-five-piece orchestra and very little rehearsals.  What I told him then is, "I can't wait to work with you again."  We did CAMELOT in 2009 and here we are.

Your directing resume includes mostly musicals, as opposed to the fewer straight dramas (QUEEN OF THE STARDUST BALLROOM, WRESTLERS, THE PRISONER OF SECOND AVENUE) you've tackled. Any particular reason you gravitate to musicals?

I have done over 50 plays.  At La Mirada from 1987-1992, I did four plays a year at the theater.

You have directed productions internationally. Describe the challenges you've had to master with the different cultures and languages.

It has been fascinating going to the other countries to direct.  The biggest challenge is finding the humor in each culture. Each culture finds different things funny.  Finding the right translations have also been a challenge.  LITTLE MERMAID, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and THE WIZ were all translated by a woman who was a famous actress in the Netherlands.  She was brilliant and took such care with the humor and lyrics.  

If we talked about all the shows you've done, this interview would be endless. Sooooo, would you give a short sentence (or word) about the following:

PETER PAN with Cathy Rigby:

The best...a true professional. We spent fifteen years keeping PETER PAN real and truthful.

THE PROPERTY KNOWN AS GARLAND with Adrienne Barbeau:

A daring piece written by Billy Van Zandt.  We worked on this piece for a year and Ms. Barbeau really captured the heart of Garland.

CAMELOT with Michael York and Rachel York:

Like the Lunts...lol. It was great to work on the script and restructure it.  It was on the road for a year and Mr. York was replaced by Lou Diamond Phillips.

FROM THE TOP with Carol Burnett:

Truly one of the greatest experiences of my life.  She was outstanding.  It was written for her by her TV writers.  It had a wonderful cast lead by Gary Beach. We rehearsed in her old studio at CBS. Magical.

WRESTLERS with Mark Harmon and George Clooney:

My first directing job in LA and it changed my life.  The understudy was Brian Cranston.  It was written by Bill C. Davis and starred Gina Hecht.  It got a lot of attention.  It was at the Cast theater near Paramount.  

ANYTHING GOES with Rachel York:

Won an Ovation Award for Best Musical.

SWEET CHARITY with Donna McKechnie:

Stunning. We did this right after Bob Fosse died.  She had just done it in Washington for him.

What was the eye-opening moment when you first said to yourself, "And this is why I became a director!"?

MAN OF LA MANCHA at the ANTA Theater in NY.  No lie. I was hooked by the world that was created.

Who would you like to work with that you haven't as yet?

Too many to list.  There are new people that I see all the time and say, "I would love to work with them."  I just want to work with talented people who want to do the work.

Any particular show you're dying to undertake?

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? MINNIE'S BOYS.

Back to MAN OF LA MANCHA, what response from the Valley Performing Arts Center audience would make you the most satisfied?

That the audience is moved by the story and see the relevance of the piece today.  I want it to make them think and dream.

Thank you again, Glenn!

For available tickets for the May 5 through 7 performances, log onto www.ValleyPerformingArtsCenter.org For info and tickets for MAN OF LA MANCHA moving to La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts June 2 through 25, log onto www.LaMiradaTheatre.com

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