Man of La Mancha

A rousing overture, with blasting brass and pounding percussion raises hopes at the Coliseum for the first London production of Man Of La Mancha for over fifty years. The slow, dull, wordy scene that follows curtain-up dashes them to pieces. Momentum picks up and there are some saving graces in what follows, but it is still hard to imagine that this was ever a Tony Award-winning musical.

A rare opportunity.

The cavernous stage of the theatre is transformed into a subterranean prison of the Inquisition in a grandiose design by James Noone, except that the modernisation of the work turns the setting, along with costumes by Fotini Dimou, into some vaguely contemporary totalitarian state. As the felons, dissidents and heretics go about their business an enormous metal staircase is lowered, stretching from a great height rear stage to rest in the centre. It is the vehicle for Kelsey Grammer’s dramatic entrance as Miguel de Cervantes. In a curious tradition amongst the inmates it is they, rather than the Inquisition, who initially put him on trial for being a poet. In an attempt to defend his worth he assumes the role of Alonso Quijano, a man not in full possession of his mental faculties who imagines himself to be knight errant Don Quijote. All is now set for the original, famous Cervantes story to unfold as Grammer weaves his way in and out of the three characters. To tell the tale he enlists the help of the prison population in addition to his faithful companion Sancho Panza (Peter Polycarpou). If it all sounds rather far-fetched and a little crazy it’s because it is.

Consistent with the role, Grammer makes a valiant attempt not to appear too ridiculous as he fights imaginary adversaries, defends the honour of the obligatory woman in any great tale of chivalry and expounds the philosophy of the noble knight’s code of honour. His voice is probably past its prime but he gives a satisfying and somewhat moving rendition of the one song everyone is waiting for, ‘To dream the impossible dream’. Thus act one concludes. After the interval Danielle de Niese continues her more operatic performance as Aldonza/Dulcinea, with whom Quijote is infatuated, but has to endure a rather unnecessarily drawn-out scene of gang abuse and rape choreographed by Rebecca Howell. It is left to Mina Patel in a sturdy performance as the priest to provide an air of rationality and gravitas. Lodgings on the knight’s journey are found at the inn where Nicholas Lyndhust plays the solidly inebriated host, with soft tones and comic timing that provide a refreshing change of tempo.

Mitch Leigh’s music has benefitted from new orchestrations by conductor David White who enthusiastically keeps the very fine orchestra together. Musically, however, the score remains rather simplistic, despite its occasional Spanish sounds rhythms.

Daring to stage Man Of La Mancha deserves a certain degree of gratitude and director Lonny Price is to be congratulated for taking on the challenge. If something is rarely performed there are usually very good reasons and these are evident even in his hands, yet there is a certain academic interest and novelty value in seeing such a show. It’s a chance to reflect upon how tastes have changed and what entertained in the past and a rare opportunity that probably won’t present itself again in many of our lifetimes.

Reviews by Richard Beck

Vespertilio

★★★★★
The Space UK

Lockdown Drag-out

★★★★
The Space UK

The Plague Thing

★★★★
Finborough Theatre

Wind of Heaven

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Kelsey Grammer will star in this semi-staged concert production as Don Quixote and as his faithful servant Sancho Panza.

Miguel de Cervantes, failed playwright, poet and tax collector, has been thrown in jail by the Spanish Inquisition for daring to tax a monastery.

Awaiting trial Cervantes is hailed before a kangaroo court of his fellow prisoners; thieves, cutthroats and trollops who propose to confiscate his meagre possessions one of which is the uncompleted manuscript of a novel called “Don Quixote.” Cervantes, seeking to save it, proposes to offer a novel defence in the form of entertainment.

As Cervantes and his servant transform into Don Quixote & Sancho Panza, his wild imagination leads them into a campaign to restore the age of chivalry, to battle evil and right all wrongs.

Please note that Danielle de Niese will not be performing at the following performances:

1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd, 25th, & 29th May, 1st, 5th & 8th June Matinee performances

21st, 24th, 28th & 31st May, 3rd June, 5th June, 7th June & 8th June evening.

Most Popular See More

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Life of Pi

From £19.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Come From Away

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Wicked

From £31.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Everybody's Talking About Jamie

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets