London Coliseum – until 8 June 2019
Man of La Mancha is considered a ‘rare’ revival and from this production it’s pretty clear why. The story is highly dated and it’s evidently a very hard piece to stage. Whilst the cast do as much as they can with what they’ve been given, the production feels un-engaging and insufficiently developed.
The structure of ‘a show within a show’ does little other than make the piece feel static. No context is given for the prison setting and the transition from the damp cell to the dreamlike play is jarring at times. The switches feel bulky and instead of moving on what little story there is, add an unnecessary layer which isn’t resolved in any way.
The thin plot follows author Cervantes (Kelsey Grammer) who has been thrown into the prison. In an attempt to save his manuscript of Don Quixote and his worldly possessions, he acts out the novel and allows the other captives to take part. Grammer is good in his roles most of the time but feels unsteady, especially during the fight scenes, and doesn’t bring the show’s hit song ‘The Impossible Dream’ to life with much bravado. In general the cast is strong but there are moments of weakness, mostly due to the book itself.
Nicholas Lyndhurst plays both the sinister Governor and boozy innkeeper and is highly entertaining. The story may be strange but Lyndhurst amuses and brings his unsophisticated characters to life.
Soprano Danielle de Niese plays Aldonza, the local prostitute who Quixote sees as his princess and damsel in distress, Dulcinea. De Niese is vocally strong and brings an entertaining feistiness to the stage, but her incredibly dated role which features a brutal rape scene, again feels discordant. There seems to be a lack of balance between comedy and drama, with whimsical moments suddenly being taken over by shocking social commentaries, that do little to resonate with a modern audience.
There are brief sparkles of greatness in this production: David Seadon-Young stands out among the ensemble, Peter Polycarpou is engaging and whimsical and the gypsy dance is well choreographed. However overall Man of La Mancha feels like a show which cannot be made relevant for a contemporary audience. The bizzare characters are too far removed from anything the audience can sympathise with which makes the whole production feel empty.
If Fotini Dimou’s beautifully detailed costumes and David White’s superbly virtuosic orchestra are enough for you to fork out the the ticket money then by all means go to this show, but don’t expect much more.
For more information and tickets, visit https://www.londonboxoffice.co.uk
photo credit: Manuel Harlan