Librettist Dale Wasserman's Man of La Mancha, based on Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra's Don Quixote, with songs by Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion, was the surprise hit of the 1965-1966 Broadway theater season. A low-budget show with a whimsical theme concerning an old man who imagines himself to be a knight, it caught the '60s zeitgeist of idealism in the face of society-rending conflict. "The Impossible Dream (The Quest)," which became a number one easy listening hit for Jack Jones and was recorded by many others, was an anthem for the times that inspired hope where no hope could possibly be justified -- indeed, that was the point. Leigh committed a deliberate anachronism by infusing his score with flamenco elements, but his dependence on acoustic guitars, along with the show's naïve tone, also echoed the currently popular trend for socially conscious folk music. While "The Impossible Dream (The Quest)" was an overpowering hit, the entire score was effective, from the stirring "Man of La Mancha (I, Don Quixote)" to the lyrical "Dulcinea" and the comic "I Really Like Him." Richard Kiley brought a powerful voice and an absolute commitment to the title role, and he was supported by strong theater veterans like Ray Middleton and Robert Rounseville. The work needed to be performed with as much conviction as possible to keep it from its real tendency toward sentimentality, and the cast managed this. The result was five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Actor, and Best Score, and what at the time was the fourth longest run for a Broadway musical in history. This gold-selling cast album remained in the charts more than three years. The 2001 reissue boasted improved sound, new liner notes, and one brief but stirring orchestral track, "The Combat," as a bonus.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|Man of La Mancha|