Man of La Mancha
Dale Wasserman, music by Mitch Leigh, lyrics by Joe Darion
Royal Lyceum Theatre Company
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
In its first musical in years, the Lyceum brings to life the classic musical Man of La Mancha, based on the story of Don Quixote.
I first heard the soundtrack to Man of La Mancha several years ago, and remember thinking that while there were a few songs that really stood out, there were a fair number that failed to ignite my passion. This assessment holds true seeing the full production now, but at the same time, those noteworthy songs - The Impossible Dream, Dulcinea, and Man of La Mancha - are brought completely to life by an extremely talented cast.
The story takes the structure of Cervantes (played by Nicholas Pound), the author of Don Quixote, being cast into prison to await the Spanish Inquisition and having to tell his famous tale to the other prisoners in order to save his manuscript from being burned. A bit contrived, but we get past that quickly enough and in the process get to watch Pound go through one of the most striking alterations of appearance to be seen on stage. With the assistance of wigs and makeup, he transforms in a matter of moments from the elegant and well-turned out Cervantes to the bushy-eyebrowed, wild-haired madman Don Quixote.
The major players have uniformly strong voices, and the supporting cast is similarly gifted. All play various instruments from the stage, rather than the musical needing separate orchestra accompaniment.
Francis O'Connor's set, which transforms from a prison to an inn to country houses, shows a strong connection to last year's Faust. Similarly to that show, O'Connor takes full advantage of the overwhelming space available to a cast on the Lyceum's stage, allowing the action to move both vertically and to the back of the playing area.
The first act of Man of La Mancha takes a brisk pace, quickly guiding the audience through the Don's early days, while the second disconnects itself from the events in part one, and it is difficult to engage as fully with the Don once he has been broken by his son in law (George Drennan).
Despite these small quibbles with the source material, Man of La Mancha is still a lovely musical with a warm and hopeful message. It would be great to see more musicals of this scale and high calibre of production on stage at the Lyceum in the future.
Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody