Man of La Mancha

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

I am I, Don Quixote,
The Lord of La Mancha,
My destiny calls and I go
And the wild winds of fortune
Will carry me onward,
Oh whithersoever they blow
Whithersoever they blow,
Onward to glory I go!

Miguel De Cervantes as Don Quixote in the opening number.

A 1965 musical based on Don Quixote, or more precisely, the man behind Don Quixote, author Miguel De Cervantes. One day, he and his faithful manservant are arrested by The Spanish Inquisition. As they await trial, their fellow prisoners put them on trial. With all of his possessions on the line, De Cervantes decides to put on a show as his defense. Care to guess which one?

With a little imagination, the dismal dungeon is transformed to rolling hills, as Cervantes and his servant - now none other than Don Quixote and Sancho Panza - set out in search of grand adventures and other derring-do. As they play at their routine, other prisoners take up roles suggested of them. In particular, the angry Aldonza, the Miss Yo-Yo Knickers of the town, attracts Quixote's interest, and he rechristens her Dulcinea, his noble lady, upon the spot. She is less than amused, but can't help but be intrigued by his idealism... Meanwhile, back at the homestead, the relatives of Alonso Quijana fret about how to save their reputation from the mad fool who's running around the country trying to joust windmills.

Part of what makes the musical noticeable is the use of the Show Within a Show being the actual meat of the play. Watching a silly play about a crazy old man and a hooker with a heart of gold is fine in and of itself, but seeing a cell full of corrupt nobles, thieves, and murderers getting lost with themselves in character as they dance around their cell as gypsies makes for a Crowning Moment of Funny and Crowning Moment of Heartwarming

There was also a 1972 film version starring Peter O'Toole and Sophia Loren.

Tropes used in Man of La Mancha include:
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Instead of an insane fool to be mocked as in the original novel, The Man of La Mancha's Quixote is a largely positive character whose adventurous spirit and idealism are a laudable thing in a harsh and cynical world.
  • Badass Creed: Come on! See the opening quote.
  • Bad Girl Song: "It's All the Same", and "Aldonza".
  • The Barber
  • Break the Cutie: The muleteers do this to Aldonza by gang-raping her. Then, she sings "Aldonza" to try and break Don Quixote as much as she has been broken. And then "The Knight of the Mirrors" just breaks him completely.
  • Brian Blessed: In one of his earliest roles, no less. He plays Pedro, the Head Muleteer in a role that is actually quite menacing and subverts his usual brand of performance.
  • Broken Bird: Aldonza, though she hides it with all her might.
  • Celibate Hero: Don Quixote, sworn to "love, pure and chaste from afar."
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Don Quixote.
  • Crapsack World: Everyone in the world is angry and cynical.
  • Crowd Song: The mocking reprise of "Dulcinea" is all the men of the chorus singing together. "Knight of the Woeful Countenance" and the Epic reprise of "The Impossible Dream" also count.
  • Dark Reprise: "Little bird, Little bird" is first sung by a group of men as they flirt with Aldonza (Dulcinea), and is then sung again when they rape her.
  • Doomed Moral Victor
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Derives from the Trope Namer. Gets its own song.
    • It can also summarize pretty well the relationship between the Don and Sancho too.
  • Epic Song: The finale, which brings the entire cast together in the united dream.
  • Fridge Brilliance: For those who dislike the differences from the book, think about this little realization: This isn't the story of Don Quixote, this is a story of Don Quixote, before it was finished written, and improvised by the participants.
  • Heroic BSOD: After being confronted with his True Self, Don Quixote regresses into a sick bedridden shell.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Aldonza's heart is more like a hunk of coal, that Don Quixote manages to crush into a diamond.
  • Ho Yay: Sancho sings an entire song explaining that he can't quite explain why he follows Don Quixote, other than "I really really like him."
  • Human Chess: Cervantes sets this up in the prison, but as a narrative device rather than a game.
  • I Am What I Am/ "I Am" Song: The title song, "Man of La Mancha (I, Don Quixote)", proclaims Don Quixote's worldview.
    • And then done again in the darkest possible way with the character of Aldonza - first, "It's All the Same," and then "Aldonza," where she declares bitterly that she is nothing but a hateful, unwanted, absolutely unlovable whore and she deserves nothing better.
  • Imaginary Friend: In one production this troper saw, Aldonza is not acted out by a cellmate, she simply appears on stage when they start acting, and vanishes when their performance is interrupted. Leading to a heartwarming symbolism when in the finale, when the story is done, she still stays on stage and sings with the prisoners in their cell. As she is no longer a character in their script, but a person in their heart.
  • "I Want" Song: "The Impossible Dream".
  • Knighting: Played for laughs in the number, "Knight of the woeful countenance."
  • May-December Romance: Don Quixote instantly fell madly in love with Aldonza. But he is pure and chaste and innocent, and also is completely unaware of how old he is. His infatuation with her manages to be incredibly endearing rather than creepy.
  • Mock Guffin: Gets its own song.
  • Mood Whiplash: The greatest and most hilarious fight scene ever between Don Quixote, Sancho, Aldonza, and a bunch of drunkards ever! Followed immediately after with Aldonza getting beaten and raped by them offstage. Which is then immediately followed by a hilarious scene between Don Quixote and Sancho running into gypsies. Which is then followed by them running into Aldonza after what happened to her.
  • Multigenerational Household: Alonso lives with his adult niece, who is engaged to be married.
  • Nice Hat: Hilarity Ensues when Don Quixote mistakes a barber's basin for a magic helmet.
  • Non-Singing Voice: Don Quixote is played by Peter O'Toole in the film version, but Simon Gilbert sang his songs.
  • One-Scene Wonder: The priest. He's a silent extra for most of the play... until he steps forward to sing "To Each His Dulcinea", one of the most beautiful songs in the score.
  • Our Acts Are Different: As written, this is a one-act show. However, it can be divided into two acts - the song "The Impossible Dream" provides a good high-pitch moment, and comes nicely in the middle, so it's a good place to cut off Act I. Hint: immediately after the muleteers' gang-rape of Aldonza is not a good place to put an Intermission.
  • Rape as Drama
  • Rape as Redemption
  • Rape Discretion Shot: Just before Aldonza is raped by the muleteers she is either carried offstage or the lights go out so the audience can't see what happens.
  • Really Gets Around: Aldonza is the town whore. She doesn't really like it, but she's good at it and it gives her some respect in the town.
  • Rule of Drama: In Real Life, Cervantes was imprisoned by the regular police because he put some public money in his pocket. Of course, throwing The Spanish Inquisition in the middle can only add real!drama.
  • Separate Scene Storytelling: The main story takes place in jail, while the Don Quixote stories are their own scenes.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The musical is very much a plea for idealism. With a clear message of "It's better to be crazy and happy, than sane and miserable."
  • Throwing Down the Gauntlet: Don Quixote challenges a knight who insulted his lady, Dulcinea.
    • In fact, his song "I, Don Quixote" addresses the depraved world with "a knight with his banners all bravely unfurled / hurls down the gauntlet to thee!"