John Davidson, known for the television shows That's Incredible and Hollywood Squares, has been pretty busy lately, playing the Old Man in the off-Broadway show The Fantasticks by night and rehearsing for Ocean Professional Theatre Company's production of Man of La Mancha by day.
Davidson will star as Don Quixote in La Mancha, opening June 19 at Bengal Theatre on the campus of Barnegat Township High School in Barnegat.
"I'm very excited, this is my second time playing Don Quixote," said Davidson. "It's one of those great roles you can work on your whole life. I'm 70 now. It takes a lot of living to handle this role."
Davidson first starred in Man of La Mancha at the Surflight Theatre in Beach Haven six years ago, working with Steve Steiner, now Ocean Professional Theatre Company's (OPTC) Artistic Director. The two met while doing State Fair on Broadway with Steiner understudying for Davidson, according to Gail Anderson, Steiner's wife and co-founder of OPTC along with Steiner.
"We would be very thrilled someone of his stature would be part of our opening season," said Anderson. "We think it will mean people will take notice of what we're doing."
Davidson said he loves the Barnegat Township area, since both he and his daughter Ashley have done shows at Surflight. When he last appeared in Man of La Mancha, he said it was the most successful show he did at Surflight, setting a box office record.
"You have the great songs, there's a lot to be learned and it's a tremendous story," said Davidson. "I play a person who sees life as better than it is. There are a lot of people suffering, especially in this economy. This show says you've got to keep trying. It can give hope to people who are going through rough times."
Anderson said the show is geared toward people 11 years old and older.
"This is a really terrific show for children," she said. "It has incredible messages of integrity and philosophies. It's a good family show sure to spark some family discussion."
The musical, Man of La Mancha, which first opened on Broadway in 1965, is a play within a play telling the story of Don Quixote while a man awaits a hearing with the Spanish Inquisition. A main song of the show, Impossible Dream, has become a standard.
Also starring in the OPTC La Mancha production as Aldonza is Heather Provost, a Tony-nominated Broadway producer and actor. Davidson said he is happy to be part of a cast of incredible professional performers.
"There are several local people, but 90 percent of the cast are people who audition and perform on Broadway," he said.
Davidson said he will be heading back to do The Fantasticks off-Broadway in the fall. He said returning to the show means a lot to him since he played the Boy lead in the show 48 years ago.
In addition, he is working on a one-man show about the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy. He said he enjoys being busy.
"My plan is to never retire," said Davidson. "To keep working until I fall down."
"John truly is one of the kindest, nicest people in show business," said Anderson. "We're hoping people in the area will embrace not just us but the opportunities they have when John or other stars play here."
Tickets are available on the OPTC website for Man of La Mancha with shows June 19-23, 26-30, July 2, 3, 5-7 at 8 p.m. and June 21, 24, 26, 28, July 1, 3, 5, and 8 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $35 for adults and $20 for children 12 and under.
The Bengal Theatre is located at 180 Bengal Blvd., Barnegat.