Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Dream the Impossible Dream

Mitch Leigh, composer of Man of La Mancha has passed away. One cannot
imagine the speed with which the show and his score took the theatre world by storm in 1965.  Ultimately, I saw the show thrice at the ANTA, then once more when it moved to a Broadway house with new cast. I don't remember which one.

I am grateful to still remember times when it was OK to take chances on an un-tried, unique staging of a new play or musical, and grateful too, for the ear-worms Mitch Leigh's music has haunted me with over the years.
From the AP:
NEW YORK (AP) — Mitch Leigh, a successful advertising jingle writer whose debut attempt at writing music for a Broadway show became the instant, celebrated hit "Man of La Mancha" and earned him a Tony Award, has died. He was 86.
Leigh died Sunday in New York of pneumonia and complications from a stroke, said his assistant, Lisa Maldonado. A memorial was held Monday afternoon in Manhattan and Broadway marquees will dim in his honor for one minute at 7:45 a.m. Wednesday.
Leigh followed up his early theatrical success by producing and directing for the Broadway stage, including a 1985 production of "The King and I" with Yul Brynner in which he earned a best director Tony nomination, but never reached the dizzying heights he did with "Man of the Mancha" in 1965.
"Mitch Leigh was a multi-faceted talent whether he was composing, directing, or producing for Broadway or Madison Avenue," said Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of the Broadway League.
He also produced "The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm" in 1999, supplied the music for "Ain't Broadway Grand" in 1993, produced "Chu Chem," billed as the first Chinese-Jewish musical in 1989, and backed a 1983 revival of "Mame" with Angela Lansbury. 
Ah, the memories.  For my (19th) birthday in the summer of 1965,  friend, Robert surprised me with tickets to a new experimental off-broadway show titled "Man of La Mancha" being staged in an equally experimental acoustically designed theatre in the west village called the ANTA Washington Square.  The ANTA was built under the ground for the sound experiment and I think, became the prototype for either the State Theatre or Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center - I don't remember which one. Anyway, the NYU Library now sits atop of where the ANTA theatre once lived.

I was thrilled, too, because I would be seeing one of my favorite Broadway actors for the first time live on stage.  Richard Kiley! I fell in love with his voice when he starred a few years earlier in "No Strings" by Richard Rodgers.  He co-starred with Diahann Carroll in what became the first inter-racial musical about love and commitment, or lack thereof.  The show was moderate hit, and did win awards - Carroll won a Tony. And the lovely score features a few Rodgers tunes that I find myself humming or singing to this day.

And so it goes.

1 comment:

  1. I worked on a production of MOLM in the '80's. I never tire of seeing it.
    R.I.P. Mr. Kiley, a true musical stage talent.


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