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FLASH FRIDAY: MAN OF LA MANCHA Prepares To March Back To Broadway For Its 50th Birthday

Today we are celebrating this week's breaking news that a classic musical is eying a Broadway return in honor of its 50th anniversary, MAN OF LA MANCHA.

I, Don Quixote

Based on the canonical classic by Miguel De Cervantes, DON QUIXOTE, the 1965 musical MAN OF LA MANCHA has a unique trajectory, even in the scheme of Broadway musicals from the last 50 years. The original production was a massive hit in its own time, winning multiple Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Actor In A Musical (Richard Kiley), Best Direction Of A Musical (Joe Layton) and Best Score (Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion) and going on to run for more than 2000 performances in its original mainstage iteration, but it did not come about in the usual way - as if such things even exist in the theatre. Needless to say, the piece has endured and thrived since that time, as well, with MAN OF LA MANCHA being a staple of high schools and community theaters around the world as well as a popular title for revival on Broadway and beyond - to that point, originator of the title role himself, Richard Kiley, returned to the memory musical in 1972 for a new production and also returned again in 1977. Subsequent Don Quixotes to have graced the Great White Way include Raul Julia, who led a 1992 revival co-starring Sheena Easton, as well as a 2002 reboot featuring Brian Stokes Mitchell and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Additionally, memorable national tours of the property that have cropped up over the years have included a Hal Linden-led revival in 1988 and a Robert Goulet showpiece production in the late 1990s. Also, some other famous essayers of the eponymous lead have included Placido Domingo, who recorded it for an all-star cast album in 1996, as well as Australian stage superstar Anthony Warlow, not to mentional the original West End production showcasing Keith Michell and original Broadway leading lady Joan Diener. Then, there is the unfortunate 1972 feature film with Peter O'Toole and Sophia Loren - the less said about that misguided iteration of the popular property, the better. So, what has made MAN OF LA MANCHA such a recurring and oft-revived musical and why are actors so drawn to the juicy roles offered by the unquestionably complex but nevertheless audience-pleasing show? With the 50th anniversary looming and rumors of a brand new revival seeking out star headliners currently in the works, now is the ideal time to revisit the many reasons why MAN OF LA MANCHA is a modern musical classic of the finest order.

Originally envisioned as solely a television play by the musical's eventual bookwriter, Dale Wasserman, MAN OF LA MANCHA was first seen as part of the DUPONT SHOW OF THE MONTH under the title I, DON QUIXOTE in November, 1959, starring Lee J. Cobb and Colleen Dewhurst in the main roles and it became an instant hit, reportedly viewed by more than 20 million Americans at the time. Several years later, director Albert Marre requested Wasserman's permission and potential participation in helping him to bring the teleplay to the stage as a full-fledged musical and as a result the duo chose composer Mitch Leigh and famed poet W.H. Auden to collaborate on the score. As history would have it, Auden was eventually replaced on the project by lyricist Joe Darion, while originally chosen leading man Rex Harrison was also bypassed in favor of Richard Kiley when Harrison revealed he found the show too heavy and dark. Following a run at the Goodspeed Opera House in 1965, the musical swiftly moved to the ANTA Washington Square Theatre later that year before eventually making it to Broadway in 1968.

With a score packed with memorable melodies and high drama - not to mention the universal and thought-provoking themes presented by Cervantes's original story - MAN OF LA MANCHA has become a hallmark of musical theatre and one of the most recognizable titles of any musical in existence. Furthermore, the title role offers a rich and rare opportunity for a major star to show his stuff, as does the dramatically rewarding leading female character of Aldonza/Dulcinea for just the right diva. Given the 50th anniversary is looming large, now is the perfect time for a new MAN OF LA MANCHA for a new generation - as impossible as that dream may be to realize right now.

The Impossible Dream

So, now, let's take a look at some of the most famous versions of MAN OF LA MANCHA as we look ahead to a potential 50th anniversary revival.

First up, Richard Kiley recreates his iconic leading role in 1971.

Next, sample the thrilling overture from the original Broadway cast recording.

Now, see Richard Kiley and the original cast on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW.

Also, Joan Diener joins Jacques Brel for a French-language recording.

Don't miss the trailer for the 1972 film adaptation.

Check out Raul Julia and Sheena Easton in the 1992 revival.

Witness Robert Goulet get a special birthday surprise during the show.

Here is Linda Eder making a major diva moment out of the title song.

Brian Stokes Mitchell made MAN OF LA MANCHA all his own in 2002.

See revival replacement Aldonza/Dulcinea Marin Mazzie stop the show.

Lastly, Colm Wilkinson breathes fiery passion into the score's biggest hit.

As a special bonus, Elvis himself sings "The Impossible Dream".

What is your absolute favorite song from the gem-packed score for MAN OF LA MANCHA? Also, who would you ideally like to see in a big Broadway revival of the familiar tuner? With a score this stacked and a drama this rich, the possibilities for greatness are as endless as your very own dreams.

Photo Credits: Stratford Festival, etc.

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From This Author - Pat Cerasaro