It opened 50 years ago on November 22, 1965.
It's one of my favorite scores, every song a gem and marvelous instrumentation with guitars and flutes and horns. It's such a beautiful show in general. The death scene on the cast album moves every time.
Ed Sullivan Performance:
Did anyone see it back in '65, or have any memories from a later mounting?
I saw footage of the 2003 Broadway revival which was okay with a wonderful performance from Brian Stokes Mitchell. I'll bet the entire idea of the show taking place in only the dungeon and using your imagination was a brilliant one back then; oh and apparently a 1972 revival premiered with Kiley, Diener, Jacobson, and Rounseville reprising their roles in the Vivian Beaumont Theater with the trust stage, must have been an extraordinary production to behold.
Saw Kiley in the role
I saw the 1969-70 road show starring Bob Wright that matched the Broadway staging. My folks had surprised me with the 2-disc London Cast recording for Hannukah, inside of which was 1 ticket to the touring show for when it came through Philly. For 3 months I played the album non-stop, inventing vast elaborately operatic sets in my mind to match the album's sound effects. Imagine my 13-year-old self's surprise to see the show staged essentially on a bare stage with one damn staircase and a few lighting effects to suggest prisons, windmills, and country inns. Scenically I was really crushed.
All that aside, the score has always been one of my favorites, and that death scene always draws tears. But there's a lot of purple prose and questionable sexual politics to muddle through (that insufferable dance with the big-boobed gypsies...)before we get to the finale. Maybe this one of those shows ripe for a revisal...?
Someone in a Tree2 said: "that insufferable dance with the big-boobed gypsies..."
Can't say I recall that particular moment from the production I saw!
I love that double LP of the London Cast. Too bad it will never be seen on CD probably.
I have wanted to see a good production of this show for a long time. Unfortunately, it hasn't happened. Raul Julia and Sheena Easton - yes Sheena Easton - nope. A fair staging by a local community theatre company - which was lit far too dark. My uncle said the version he saw in the 60s in Los Angeles with Kiley and Diener was one of his all time favorites - and that the initial lowering of the staircase from the ceiling was about as dramatic an opening as he has ever seen - both for the opening and for the emotional closing as Cervantes walks up to his fate. Billy Elliot uses a similar motif as the miners descend at the end of that show.
I wrote here once that I cringed every time I heard Jack Jones' version of "The Impossible Dream" in lieu of Kiley's magnificent performance. And of course someone here knows the Jones family and vouches for their artistic integrity.
So I say that Jack Jones' recording was perfectly adequate for the commercial radio audience to whom it was targeted, and Kiley's would not have been successful with that audience but it is a shame that his recording did not reach more people.
And now that I think of it, if Richard Harris' recording of "MacArthur Park" was a hit, why not Kiley?
I only just recently got into this show, despite how old is (give me a break, I am only 21. ) I like it quite a lot, and I've never actually seen the show. I'd like to someday.there's an excellent version that you can find on YouTube done by PHAMALY Theater company in Denver Colorado. All of the actors in it have disabilities of some sort,I was pleasantly surprised how fantastic it was. I'm not affiliated with them at all, but look it up if you're interested.
The Jones version is perfectly adequate but oh so vanilla. He sings it fine but without much conviction, and both his voice and the arrangement are so "nice."
Kiley's version is a powerhouse, he has so much character in his voice naturally and his rendition is ferocious. Paired with the brisk arrangement, befitting for a sing about a quest, it gives me chills!
As iconic as the Hirschfeld artwork is, I much prefer the artwork displayed above. I fell in love with the score when I was 14. I borrowed the album from the Donnell Branch of the New York Public Library. Sadly, that particular branch no longer exists. I then saw the film and then finally got to see it on stage with Brian Stokes Mitchell and Mary Elizabeth Mastroantonio. This is one of the few musicals that has the ability to move me to tears.
Here is that artwork as it appeared on the original poster during previews. I love the illustration of Aldonza but i think the Don Quixote one is perhaps a tad too silly for the subject matter, something they evidently had fixed based on the different (more distinguished) one on the playbill but chose the Hirschfeld drawing as the main artwork anyway. Would have been interesting to see what the official Broadway poster might have looked like.
I saw Robert Goulet in a touring version back in the 90s. As my friend I were heading into the theater she kept talking about Benson this and Rafiki that. I finally realized she thought we were seeing Robert Guilliame as the lead. Once I told she was fine with it. However at intermission she turned to me and said, "I wish. we were seeing Robert Guilliame."
I also saw my friend play Aldonza in his all-boys school production. He was okay because his voice hadn't changed his yet, but his chest looked weird. They were uneven the entire show. We used to call him "Saggy Boob Sock" because of it.
One of my favorite musicals ever!
Lucky to have seen Richard Kiley as well!
I saw it at the Eden Theater (now Village East Cinemas) on 12th Street and 2nd Avenue towards the end of its run in May of 1971. David Atkinson and Emily Yancy were then the stars (I had seen Emily as Irene in the Pearl Bailey "Hello, Dolly", and Robert Rounseville and Ray Middleton had returned to the show as The Padre and The Innkeeper. Sancho was then played by Rudy Tronto.
It's a wonderful show and it would be great to see a worthy Broadway revival. I wish it would be remade as a film, too, but there probably isn't enough interest in it anymore. Maybe NBC could do it one year?
Saw the late Keith Michell in it in London in the summer of 1968 when I was a teenager, a life-altering experience. With Joan Diener. And then Ferrer in a tour (Washington, DC) and finally Kiley in the first or second major revival, also at the National in DC. By the time it came back with Brian Stokes Mitchell, I was probably too enamored of my own golden memories, but he was wonderful in a not entirely successful production. The score, sometimes maligned as much as "Cats" in its day by Cervantes (and musical theater) snobs remains iconic.
This was my first show working at the National in DC in 1977 with Richard Kiley and Emily Yancy. I had to remind myself that it played the theatre twice more in the 35 years I worked there - the Raul Julia/Sheena Easton tour (he was a lovely person!) and the Brian Stokes Mitchel/ME Mastrantonio tour. I'll always have a special place in my heart for this show. It's wonderful, and it started me out on a great note in a new job.
A television mounting would be an interesting full circle moment for the piece, as this concept started on TV as a nonmusical episode of The DuPont Show of the Month.
^ Indeed. Then it's just a simple matter of combining the original teleplay with the book of the musical to flesh it out some rather than hiring some other writer to screw it up, and you've got a show that's all of a piece.
I've never understood why noses get turned up at this show. My father saw the short-lived London production twice and found it overwhelming. The boxed set of the two-lp London cast was a treasured possession for him and remains so for me.
The recent production at the Shakespeare Theatre in DC was sensational....Anthony Warlow is a truly great performer, but the absolute stand-out was Amber Imam as Aldonza. She was incredible.
I read somewhere that Wasserman's widow was looking into a 50th anniversary revival. This has always been my favorite show. It was my first Broadway Theatre experience. Went to it in Jr High with my Spanish Class.
The official "final" artwork.
My God, look at those prices! A top ticket of $7.50. What the hell happened?
The Other One said: "My God, look at those prices! A top ticket of $7.50. What the hell happened?"
I've heard tell that there was quite an outrage when top ticket prices scratched 50 bucks in the 80s.
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