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Richard Kiley's classic broadway performance as Don Quixote
on April 25, 2002
There are certain performances the bind a performer and a character forever, and that was certainly the case with Richard Kiley playing the title character in "Man of La Mancha." Whenever I listen to the final track of this original cast album, when Aldonza reprises "The Impossible Dream" and begs the the dying man to remember his quest and Don Quixote struggles to his feet one final time, it always brings a tear to my eyes. There are few moments from Broadway that I can listen to that have such as an effect ("Is Anybody There" from "1776," "Memories" from "Cats," and when Mary finds the door to the garden at the end of Act I of "The Secret Garden" are the others).
This is a powerful musical, surprisingly adult in its treatment of the characters and the subject matter: Joan Diener's "Aldonza" is powerfully brutal in its depiction of her wretched life. Richard Kiley singing "The Impossible Dream" is obviously a Sixties Broadway standard, but there are other memorable songs as well: Quixote's "Dulcinea," the Muleteers "Little Bird, Little Bird" and the funny/beautiful harmonious medley "The Barber's Song/Golden Helmet."
This reworking of Cervantes in "Man of La Mancha" is interesting, because although it relies primarily on episodes from Part I of "Don Quixote," its spirit is more in keeping with the tenor of Part II of that classic novel. Consequently, this musical can make for an interesting class discussion for students who have worked through the novel(s). One of the nice touches on this CD is that a couple of lines are added to the spoken introduction to "Man of La Mancha (I, Don Quixote)".
My final word would be that listening to this original Broadway cast album is FAR superior to every watching the absolutely wretched film version let alone even listening to the Soundtrack album. If you love Broadway musicals then you have to have Kiley doing "Man of La Mancha," the same way you have to have Robert Preston doing "The Music Man."