Confession: I may have only booked tickets to Man of La Mancha because of who was in it.. Kelsey Grammer, best known as Dr Frasier Crane, and the amazing Cassidy Janson, who has appeared in Beautiful:The Carole King Musical, Chess, Wicked, and more.
This, however, takes nothing away from the fact that this is a brilliant production. I laughed, I cried, and at one point in the second half, hid behind my fingers.
Man of La Mancha tells the story of Miguel de Cervantes, who is imprisoned and awaiting trial by the Spanish Inquisition. Whilst there, his fellow prisoners set up a mock trial, with Cervantes offering a play as his form of defence. With some beautifully simple make up changes (its amazing how a set of false eyebrows can change a character!) Cervantes becomes Don Quixote, Knight errant, who along with his faithful manservant Sancho Panza (played brilliantly by Peter Polycarpou), sets out to right the wrongs of the world, (as he sees them), and protect his beloved Dulcinea/ Aldonza. …It’s actually really quite difficult to describe the storyline without giving away pivotal plot moments, so forgive me if those details are on the vague side!
The staging, in my opinion, was perfect, with the set easily changing from the prison setting where the story begins, to the roadside Inn, with nothing more than the rearranging of a few blocks, and the introduction of a (pretty creepy) staircase.
The cast, on paper, was quite intriguing… Kelsey Grammer and Nicholas Lyndhurst are so well known for particular characters ( Frasier Crane and Rodney Trotter, respectively) that I did worry that I wouldn’t be able to separate them from these. From the moment they entered the stage though, I knew I need not worry. Kelsey has such a commanding presence and way with the dialogue, that you forget anything he may have played before, and just become so engrossed in the moment. His rendition of the Impossible Dream at the end of act I was so powerful and emotional, it left us with goosebumps, and Nicholas as the tipsy inn keeper was just perfect, but most of his action was confined to the second half, which is well worth the wait.
The role of Aldonza/Dulcinea is shared between Cassidy Janson and Danielle De Niese. For the night I was in, it was Cassidy taking the female lead, and as usual, she was just sublime. Her character went from witty and feisty, to vulnerable and frightened, and each emotion was portrayed so brilliantly we could feel and see it from the upper circle.
This emotion was also tangible in the finale, the full, rousing cast rendition of The Impossible Dream.
I could go on forever about how brilliant this show is, and it really hasn’t got the credit it deserves. The reviews for it have been mixed, but personally, I think it should be seen by everyone.