Broadway Musical Time Machine: Looking Back at Man of La Mancha

Broadway Musical Time Machine: Looking Back at Man of La Mancha

 Richard Kiley in  Man of La Mancha

Richard Kiley in Man of La Mancha

At one point in time, Man of La Mancha was a very popular musical that was produced with frequency and with great reverence. Based on the book Don Quixote by Cervantes, the tale of the knight errant who travels an ugly and bleak world and refuses to see anything but optimism and beauty has been an inspiration to many. Man of La Mancha also includes a score that features one of theatre's most-beloved anthems of hope, "The Impossible Dream".

Nowadays, productions of Man of La Mancha are less-frequent than they once were in the late 60s and 70s. Has the property dated? Has a flood of cynicism washed away the impact of this musical's hopeful messages? Why, exactly, has this show's luster faded over time? Broadway revivals starring Raul Julia in 1992 and Brian Stokes Mitchell had a relatively short run of 108 performances and 304 performances respectively. Perhaps the misbegotten 1972 film version starring Peter O’Toole left a bad taste in peoples’ mouths?

Whether it’s still a viable show for revival or not, Man of La Mancha was once a big hit and people performed it anywhere they could. Here are some interesting facts about this inspiring piece of musical theatre:

  • Man of La Mancha premiered at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut in 1965.
  • The show opened at the ANTA Washington Square Theatre in Greenwich Village on November 22, 1965 before transferring to Broadway’s Martin Beck Theatre.
  • Rex Harrison was original in talks to play the role of Don Quixote, but he couldn’t handle the vocal demands. The role eventually went to Richard Kiley who won a Tony Award for his performance.
  • The original production ran for 2,329, occupying a total of four theatres over its tenure (the Eden and the Mark Hellinger were its next two stops).
  • Man of La Mancha was the only hit score for the composing team of Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion.
  • Man of La Mancha won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1966, besting Jerry Herman’s enormously popular Mame. It also won Best Director, Best Score, and Best Scenic Design.
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