Yesterday, in reviewing Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” I wrote about the original Broadway musical “The Man Of La Mancha.” I mentioned that my parents saw it, but I didn’t, because I was too young.
However, in searching YouTube, I found this clip from “The Ed Sullivan Show” — which we watched as a family every Sunday night — that I probably did see when it aired live on February 20, 1966. To my knowledge, it’s the only footage of the cast — Richard Kiley as Cervantes/Quixote, Irving Jacobson as Sancho Panza, and Joan Diener as Aldonza/Dulcinea.
Some back story: at first, “La Mancha” struggled to find an audience, but Sullivan — who had for decades written a column centered on theaters and shows in New York — saw it and became its biggest booster. He invited the cast to do three songs, spanning eleven minutes (out of an hour-long broadcast), something unheard of today on any TV show. With the exposure to Sullivan’s huge audience, ticket sales for “La Mancha” took off, and the show ran for years.
Unfortunately, rather than allowing the musicians who played in the pit for “La Mancha” eight times a week to accompany the cast, Sullivan insisted his own orchestra do so, as they did with most acts on his show. As you’ll hear, everything was fine until the final reprise of “The Impossible Dream,” when Sullivan’s orchestra played in the wrong key and the cast members struggled to keep it together.
Other than that, enjoy this rare piece of Broadway history from half a century ago…