Review of 'Man of La Mancha: The Musical'

man_of_la_mancha.jpg https://www.eno.org/whats-on/man-of-la-mancha/

Kelsey Grammer stars as Don Quixote in the revival of this musical classic for a limited run at the ENO Coliseum.

After a short overture the curtain comes up to reveal an inquisition prison in the basement of a decaying museum. The stairs descend for it's newest inmate: The author Miguel de Cervantes (Kelsey Grammer) accompanied by his faithful manservant (Peter Polycarpou). The inmates led by self-appointed “Governor” (Nicholas Lyndhurst, recognisable from his many roles on television sitcoms such as “Only Fools and Horses”) decide to hold court to determine whether Cervantes will be allowed to keep his trunk of belongings. Cervantes launches his defence by using the inmates to play out parts in his story of “Don Quixote”. The story begins with Alonso Quijana believing himself to be the honourable knight-errant Don Quixote and his faithful servant Sancho Panza attacking a windmill having mistaken it for a giant. Soon after they come across a castle (a rather rough inn operated by a drunk inn-keeper, also played by Lyndhurst) where a servant girl and part-time whore “Aldonza” (Danielle de Niese when I saw the performance but otherwise played by Cassidy Janson) who Quixote immediately falls for calling her “Dulcinea”. Having received a letter of admiration from Quixote, Aldonza is abused by the patrons of the inn when our somewhat inept hero comes to her rescue…

Absolutely amazing. Quite confusing. This 2 1/2 hour musical (including a 20 minute interval) is seldom performed here in the UK which is a shame as it is full of life and vitality with the iconic “Dream the Impossible Dream” a stunning headline. Grammer, Lyndhurst and de Niese were all utterly convincing in their roles and all sang beautifully. This is to be expected from the operatically trained de Niese but a surprise coming from Grammer and Lyndhurst. Their strong, clean vocals bring to life the wonderful music of La Mancha with it's delicate and emotional pieces including “Dulcinea”, “Man of la Mancha”, “I'm Only Thinking of Him” and, of course, Dream. The full orchestra beneath the stage provide a powerful and solid backing to the soundtrack.

The staging is interesting and intriguing, used to imaginatively set the stage for the Quixote story. The story is somewhat confusing with Cervantes talking of Dox Quixote who, in fact, is a, shall we say, mentally challenged Alonso Quijana who his family are determined to bring back to reality. As I said, confusing.

Being slightly familiar with the story (which I still do not completely follow, but more the better) I found this staging (from the same people that brought us the revival of Chess in the same venue last year) absolutely wonderful and well worth seeing for any fans of the bizarre and musicals. Absolutely wonderful.

Rating:

Review Date: 2019-05-22



London Coliseum

Location: London (England)

Address: St Martin's Ln, London WC2N 4ES ENGLAND

Public Transport: TUBE Leicester Square TUBE Charing Cross

Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7845 9300

URL: https://www.eno.org/

Home the English National Opera, the London Coliseum is easy to find with the rotating globe on the roof with it's name on top of it just north east of Trafalgar Square, just up the road from St Martins-in-the-Fields.

In recent years the Coliseum has been substantially refurbished and looks very much better for it from the wonderful wood, brass and glass main doors to the completely restored auditorium it is a sight to behold. Despite this new work it is still quite crowded on performance nights with access to the three balconies (Dress Circle, Upper Circle and “Balcony”) restricted to a single staircase.

Despite being home to an opera company there are a surprising variety of performances here with the acoustics and sounds systems very good indeed. Visibility is pretty good throughout though can be tricky on the Balcony (those with vertigo should give these seats a miss in any case). For full-stage performances I would recommend the dress circle to be able to see the entire stage and enjoy the best of the sound.