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ENO’s dream La Mancha not quite possible

09 May, 2019 — By Michael White

Man of La Mancha at the Coliseum. Photo: Manuel Harlan

WHEN English National Opera fell on hard times it came up with the idea of devoting part of its season to a West End musical, organised commercially with the promoter Michael Grade. And this year it’s Man of La Mancha – a hit show of the 1960s, loosely based on Cervantes’ Don Quixote, but remembered these days for just one song: “To dream the impossible dream.”

ENO’s mission in reviving it is to persuade us all that Man of La Mancha is a neglected masterpiece. And to that extent it fails. Apart from “The Impossible Dream” the songs are unremarkable, the narrative is shapeless; and in this slightly clumsy production the whole thing trundles on too slowly. You start looking at your watch before the two stars even show themselves onstage.

Kelsey Grammer as Don Quixote. Photo: Manuel Harlan

But when they come, the stars are consolation. Danielle de Niese has feisty allure as the love interest Dulcinea. And while Kelsey Grammer has neither the charisma nor the voice to be a great Quixote, it’s always interesting to see how an American TV legend handles live theatre. Which in this case he does well enough.

As simple, unsophisticated, semi-feelgood entertainment, it’s OK. Just don’t expect the earth to move.

Man of La Mancha runs until June 8, 7.30pm, £15+, at the London Coliseum, St Martin’s Lane, WC2N 4ES, 020 7845 9300,


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