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Posted May 14, 2019 by

 
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“In a village of La Mancha, whose name I do not wish to recall, there lived, not very long ago, one of those gentlemen with a lance in the lance-rack, an ancient shield, a skinny old horse, and a fast greyhound.” So begins one of literatures’ greatest and most influential novels.

Since it’s publication in 1605, Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote has inspired 14 films, a TV series and seven musicals, of which The Man Of La Mancha is undoubtedly the most successful.

Initially written as a teleplay, then adapted for stage, it seems quite fitting, then, that for the London Coliseum’s latest production The Man Of La Mancha has returned to the world of TV for its leads.

Produced produced by Michael Linnit and Michael Grade—who brought to the Coliseum smash hit productions of Sweeney Todd, Sunset Boulevard, Carousel and Chess—the acclaimed musical opened on 30th April for a limited six week season.

Emmy-award-winning and Tony-nominated actor Kelsey Grammer, best known for playing Dr. Frasier Crane in NBC’s hit series Cheers and Frasier, makes his West End debut playing Miguel de Cervantes and Don Quixote. International opera star and soprano Danielle de Niese shares the role of Aldonza and Dulcinea with Cassidy Jonson. Nicholas Lyndhurst,  best known for his roles in TV’s Only Fools And Horses, Goodnight Sweetheart, and New Tricks, plays the Innkeeper and Governor. Peter Polycarpou—who starred in five series of the popular BBC1 comedy, Birds Of A Feather—plays Sancho Panza.

In a 16th century dungeon Cervantes and his man servant await trial from the Spanish Inquisition. In his possession he has a trunk carrying an unfinished novel, Don Quixote. As prisoners attempt to steal his possessions, Cervantes begins acting out his novel, transforming himself into his lead character, Alonso Quijano. Quijano, deluded, believes he is a knight errant, and renaming himself Don Quixote de la Mancha, sets off on a fantastical quest with his man servant Sancho Panza.

The production is a joy to see, with an engaging and innovative use of space and stage-dressing used bring the world of Cervantes and Don Quixote alive. While neither Grammer nor Polycarpou have classically-trained voices, they add an undoubted charm to the production, with the pure soprano tones of Cassidy Jonson boosting the signal where needed. The only jarring moment was the attempted gang-rape scene which was neither necessary nor appropriate in a piece of light, family-entertainment.

The musical’s set piece is, of course “Impossible Dream”— made famous by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Andy Williams, Luther Vandross and Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine. Grammer doesn’t really have that soul-dee,p quiet-desperation to pull off a truly memorable rendition, but then he’s no Bryn Terfel, which is that’s fine.

The ENO’s now seasonal ‘lighter’ productions are designed to offer something new to audiences who maybe go to the  Coliseum year-on-year expecting to see more of the same. And that’s to be applauded. La Mancha won’t perhaps win the critical plaudits that greeted Sweeny Todd but it’s a crowd-pleaser. It’s big, it’s bold and it’s message of hope against all odds, is one that’s sure to resonate.

The music in The Man Of La Mancha is by Mitch Leigh, lyrics by Joe Darion and book by Dale Wasserman.

Man Of La Mancha runs at the London Coliseum until Saturday 8 June. Tickets can be bought here: https://www.eno.org/whats-on/man-of-la-mancha/


Paula Hammond - Features Editor

 
Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email: writerpaula@icloud.com


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