April 24, 1968: “Man of La Mancha” makes debut in London

Man_of_La_Mancha-1968Man of La Mancha is a 1964 musical with a book by Dale Wasserman, lyrics by Joe Darion, and music by Mitch Leigh. It is adapted from Wasserman’s non-musical 1959 teleplay I, Don Quixote, which was in turn inspired by Miguel de Cervantes and his seventeenth-century masterpiece Don Quixote. It tells the story of the “mad” knight Don Quixote as a play within a play, performed by Cervantes and his fellow prisoners as he awaits a hearing with the Spanish Inquisition. The work is not and does not pretend to be a faithful rendition of either Cervantes’ life or of Don Quixote. Wasserman complained repeatedly about taking the work as a musical version of Don Quixote.

The original 1965 Broadway production ran for 2,328 performances and won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The musical has been revived four times on Broadway, becoming one of the most enduring works of musical theatre.

The principal song, “The Impossible Dream“, became a standard. The musical has played in many other countries around the world, with productions in Dutch, French (translation by Jacques Brel), German, Hebrew, Irish, Japanese, Korean, Icelandic, Gujarati, Uzbek, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Serbian, Slovenian, Swahili, Finnish, Ukrainian and nine distinctly different dialects of the Spanish language.

Man of La Mancha was first performed at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut in 1965 and had its New York premiere on the thrust stage of the ANTA Washington Square Theatre in 1965.Man_of_La_Mancha-1968-Keith_Michell

The original West End London production was at the Piccadilly Theatre,  running for 253
performances. Keith Michell (pictured) starred, with Joan Diener reprising her original role and Bernard Spear as Sancho. [Wikipedia]

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