MAN OF LA MANCHA
Music by Mitch Leigh, lyrics by Joe Darion, book bv Dale Waserman based on the novel Don Quixote by Cervantes.
The London Coliseum, St Martin’s Lane, London WC2N to 8 June 2019.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm. Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2 Hours One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7836 0111
Review: William Russell 1 May.
A musical which fails to make the grade on every count.
Way back when – half a century ago to be exact – with Keith Michel as Don Quixote or the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance in Man of La Mancha seemed quite a good musical. It had a nicely pretentious plot, one decent song, and Michel, a splendid musical leading man as well as an actor of distinction, delivered the goods the part required. But this revival at the Coliseum starring Kelsey Grammer as Don Quixote directed by Lonny Price is almost as bad as, iof not worse than Kismet starring Michael Ball, a show the surviving front of house staff still talk about in hushed tones, another of the theatre’s musical revivals. Anybody in it probably just wants to forget.
It has a dreadful set, has been directed with no sign of any imagination by Price and in the leading role an actor who cannot sing. Grammer shouts rather than warbles when confronted with the show’s one sure fire hit number – The Impossible Dream. To work it demands a voice that soars, not one rasping like two pieces of emery paper being rubbed together. In other words the show proved the knight from hell in the night from hell.
Aldonza, the girl in the inn Quixote believes is his lady love Dulcinea, is played by the opera singer Danielle de Niese. She gets nothing worth singing to sing and fails to be either sexy or pathetic. The scenes when she is in effect raped by the hooligans who infest the inn is played full on and proves is just plain nasty. Not that rape or abuse should be attractive, but the choreography, all leering in your face tossing the poor girl about from groin to groin, is fatal. She undeniably has a voice but sex sexy lady of the inn or of Quixote’s dreams she is not. As for the rest of the cast, the usually splendid Peter Polycarpou makes no impression at all as Sancho Panza, Nicholas Lindhurst as the chief inmate of the prison in which the tale is performed just does his Rodney act yet again given that he has nothing to work with, and everybody else runs round in circles expending quite a lot of energy but little else.
The plot gimmick is that Cervantes, who wrote the novel, has been thrown into prison by the Inquisition. To pass the time and save his skin from being ripped off and worse by the inmates he tells them the story of Don Quixote while they play the various characters in the tale. If Grammer is out of his depth in the leading role, the hapless de Niese is wasting her time as Aldonza. At some performances the soprano Cassidy Janson will sing the role, but you get who you get. – or check in advance if you want de Niese instead.
The set is a muddle of bits of this and that, the orchestra is over amplified right from the start, the dancing is unconvincing and anything but Spanish, and there is not even a decent windmill for the Don to attack – just a half hidden back projection. Some musicals get revived too often, but there had to be a reason why this one lingered untouched for half a century and judging by this production the reason is glaringly obvious. That it follows the first rate RSC Don Quixote only compounds the crime.
Cervantes/Don Quixote: Kelsey Grammer.
Aldonza/ Dulcinea: Danielle de Niese.
Aldonza/Dulcinea: Cassidy Janson.
Innkeeper/Governor: Nicholas Lyndhurst.
Sancho Panza: Peter Polycarpou.
Emanuel Alba; Rakesh Boury; Stephen John Davis; Tim Hodges; Tash Holway; Luke Jackson; Julie Jupp; Natasha Leaver; Luke KcCall; Eugene McCoy; Debrah Michael; Paul F Monaghan; Dominic Owen; Mina Patel; Ryan Pidgen; Alex PInder; Joseph Poulton; Jocelyn Prah; David Seadon-Young; Lucy St Louis; Samuel Thomas; Helen Walsh; Teddy Wills; Anna Woodside.
Director: Lonny Price.
Conductor & New Orchestrations: David White.
Conductor: Murray Hipkin.
Choreographer: Rebecca Howell.
Set Designer: James Noone.
Costume Designer: Fotini Dimou
Lighting Designer: Rick Fisher.
Sound Designer: Mike Potter.
Fight Director: Kate Waters.
Production Photographs: Manuel Harlan.