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Review Round-Ups

Was Man of La Mancha an impossible dream come true or a critic's nightmare?

The Tony Award-winning musical had its first revival in over 50 years and the reviews are in

Kelsey Grammer in Man of la Mancha
© Manuel Harlan

Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage

★★

"There are a group of enthusiasts, of a certain age, who will make the case that Man of La Mancha is the great lost musical of the 1960s. It did after all win the Tony Award for best musical in 1965, beating Sweet Charity and Mame. But on the basis of this revival, as part of Michael Grade and Michael Linnit's determination to produce rarely staged classics at the Coliseum, that claim is as delusional as its hero Don Quixote."

"Kelsey Grammer, beloved as Frasier, has been cast as the three-way hero. Grammer has an attractive, amiable presence but what he does not have is a singing voice strong enough to ripple through the great number of the night. The tone is there, but he just doesn't have the breath to fill a huge space like the Coliseum."

"The ensemble are lively and willing. But it's not enough. Man of La Mancha hasn't been performed professionally in the UK since 1968. It can now return to the museum."


Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard

★★

"This is a strange and statically staged production of an under-whelming show. The first problem is the peculiar framing device that writer Dale Wasserman wraps around the action. Cervantes (Grammer) is imprisoned by the Spanish Inquisition; while he waits, his fellow captives put him to a mock trial, for which he acts out scenes from his unfinished novel Don Quixote. It's a distancing conceit, and to further cloud the picture director Lonny Price tries to put a nebulous contemporary spin on the dissent."

"Grammer tops a peculiar grab-bag of leading performers. Opera singer Danielle de Niese brings some much-needed spirit to the role of Quixote's adored Dulcinea, while Nicholas Lyndhurst plays the squiffy Innkeeper with intermittent charm. The rest of the large cast are bewilderingly under-employed and spend much time sitting idly around while the action takes place on a much smaller central platform. A wearying evening."


Tim Bano, The Stage

★★★

"What director Lonny Price is trying to do at any moment is clear, but it's just done clumsily. Most of the comedy fizzles out somewhere between the stage and the stalls. Timing is off; there are long moments when nothing happens; some actors are badly lit; there's a pointlessly long and gratuitous scene where de Niese's Dulcinea is attacked and knocked unconscious by a group of men."

"But, Grammer is a naturally charismatic presence as barmy idealist Quixote, and his singing voice has improved since his first musical outing in London, Big Fish at The Other Palace in 2017. His vibrato is stronger, his notes richer, though his breath control is still way off.

"The real talent comes, though, from bona fide opera singer De Niese as Quixote's love interest Dulcinea (alternating with Cassidy Janson). Her voice easily fills a huge space like this, and she's also an incredibly expressive actor."


The cast of Man of La Mancha
© Manuel Harlan


Alice Saville, Time Out

★★

"James Noone's old-school set design doesn't make a convincing arena for contemporary parallels: it's all naffly crumbling plaster with a flight of metal steps that set the whole confection a-wobble every time they're lowered."

"Sharing the role with Janson, Danielle de Niese is a lively, fine-voiced presence as Dulcinea, bringing an energy that's otherwise lacking from this dour production – even if it's grim to see it play out in a danced rape scene that probably wasn't okay in the '60s and certainly isn't now."


Dominic Maxwell, The Times

★★

"It's a shame that Noone's design is quite so grim and quite so time-consuming to get in and out of on its levered staircase. Making the prison a contemporary one only confuses a conceit that already stands between us and the good stuff."

"Here the whimsy is laborious, leaving the scenes of sexual menace lingering more in the mind than the moments of hope. Grammer is forever in credit for his years as Dr Frasier Crane in Cheers and Frasier but he rarely looks entirely convinced by himself here, while Lyndhurst is better at the comic moments as an inn keeper than looking menacing in a black leather trenchcoat as 'the Governor'. Plenty of talent on this stage, yet the overall effect is sluggish, confused and sorely lacking a twinkle in its eye."

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