Thursday, September 10, 2020

337. MAN OF LA MANCHA. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Joan Diener, Richard Kiley.

MAN OF LA MANCHA [Musical Revival] B: Dale Wasserman; M: Mitch Leigh; LY: Joe Darion; D: Albert Marre; CH: Jack Cole; S/L: Howard Bay; C: Howard Bay, Patton Campbell; P: Albert W. Selden and Hal James b/a/w Lincoln Center in the Albert Marre Production; T: Vivian Beaumont Theatre; 6/22/72-10/21/72 (140)

Edward Varrato.

A long-run hit following its opening Off Broadway in 1965 (it later moved to Broadway), this popular musical adaptation of Cervantes’s classical novel Don Quixote returned for another run, featuring the original starring quartet, except that Irving Jacobson, as Sancho Panza, had to be replaced for the opening by Edmond Varrato—widely praised—after the former suffered a rehearsal injury. 

The original Antonia, Mimi Turque (later Mimi Turque Marre, after she married La Mancha director Albert Marre), tells me that she had been asked to join the company as well, but she was then playing one of the daughters in Fiddler on the Roof. Unfortunately, she was unable to get the temporary leave she requested from Anatevka so she could join the La Mancha company. As it turned out, Fiddler ended its long run only days after La Mancha opened.

The production had been closed for only about a year when this revival—more like a return engagement—opened. During the seven years since it first appeared, it had been produced in 22 languages in 45 countries, and is still frequently revived.

Richard Kiley, Irving Jacobson (in previews).

For the present showing, its excellent staging, décor, and performances were intact, with Richard Kiley once again demonstrating his great ability in the challenging title role, and with Joan Diener as Aldonza and Robert Rounseville as Padre providing first-class support. Howard Thompson believed that “the play seemed sharper, sweeter and more burnished—perhaps in some measure by time itself.” Of Kiley, he declared: “He never made his noble-hearted old Spanish knight a doddering caricature, t we don’t recall him being nearly as vigorous and effortlessly pensive. Feeling often surpassed tone . . . but his show-stopping number, “The Quest,” was wonderfully effective.”

Some, like John Simon, may have abhorred the writing and the music (“a really impossible dream ground to pleasingly palpable, easily digestible pulp”), but none denied the viability of the production. Simon himself thought director Albert Marre deserved wider recognition: “Albert Marre is one our cleverest, earthiest directors, and it is too bad that Broadway has not used him more consistently where earthy shrewdness is required; they have often put him to other tasks with less happy results than in this gorgeously and appropriately gimmicky staging.”