Tony Winners, 1966, Man of La Mancha

26 Mar

man of la mancha

I think the mid sixties was one of the high points of Broadway, bringing out works of high artistic merit, while still keeping a finger on popular culture.  Man of La Mancha is the story of Don Quixote as told by Cervantes in jail.  There’s something about this story, about a person being a knight and protector in a twisted world, that really resonates.   While there is some humor, this story is dark, exploring greed, lechery, insanity, and old age.

There are many stories about a crazy man bringing the world to life with his imagination, however they usually fail–because for this to be a heroic deed the world he is imagining himself from needs to be a place you need escape from.   If you escape from life’s dullness–that’s not heroic at all.  Don Quixote speaks to the part of us that wants to fight something solid and real, rather than muddle through life day by day.

The soundtrack is absolutely brilliant.  The original has some roughness at the edges, which really is necessary–there’s been attempts to make it more operatic, and that’s a mistake–opera is far too refined for the world that this play (and the original book) exhibit.   The songs are absolutely perfect–first there’s The Impossible Dream–a song that has turned into a standard, and it alone would make this show worth it, even if the rest of the songs were drivel.  Fortunately they’re not–the songs really echo the topsy turvy world in which Don Quixote lives in.  Little Bird sounds sweet but is a song that precedes violence, I Like Him is the only real love song in the show and it’s a friendship song.   I’m Only Thinking of Him is sung by the most selfish characters in the show.

A true classic in every sense of the word.  Visionary and sad.  A story for the ages.

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