A couple weeks ago, I posted two videos from the original 1974 Chile production of El Hombre de La Mancha -- the opening song "I, Don Quixote" here, and the Big Song, "Sueño Impossible" here. Today, we have a treat, the entire, moving finale from that original production.
As I mentioned before, I wasn't bowled over by the interpretation that the show's star, Jose Maria Langlais, gives as the crazed Don Quixote, finding it a bit too almost nonchalant. But I find that he does a significantly better job here as the old man is on his deathbed.
The finale of Man of La Mancha is quite moving, from a double perspective, because it actually overlaps two stories. And they handle it very well here -- it's missing the looming staircase at the very end that was in the original American production, but it's still very effective. And even if you don't speak Spanish, the ending is easy to follow, particularly with a recap.
Man of La Mancha is a show-within a show. Tax collector Miguel Cervantes has been arrested along with his valet for taxing the king. The cynical leader of the prisoners charges him with being an incredible fool and they all steal his possessions and are about to throw his manuscript in the fire, when he begs the chance to defend himself. And his defense is to tell a story, getting the prisoners to play the parts of his tale of a mad gentleman so horrified by the ills of the world that he reverts to a time where knights fought for honor, no matter how great the impossible quest, even if it meant tilting at windmills.
Which brings us to the finale.
The Don's family members have been ashamed by his actions and sent their nephew (played by the prisoner who had wanted to burn Cervantes' manuscript) to make the old man see reality. He at last does, but it breaks his spirit, and he's left dying in bed.
The scullery wench Aldonza breaks in to see the old gentleman, whose real name is Alonso Quijana. She'd scorned him earlier, for seeing her as the pure and lovely Dulcinea, not the low whore that she was treated as by all others. But she was so moved by his efforts to see the beauty in her that she is heartbroken she doesn't remember her or any of his adventures. The family drags her off, but she refuses to leave and rushes back. She begs him to remember who he was. "Is it so important?" he asks Important?? she answers, it's everything. "Todo." And she begs him to remember that he had put her on a pedestal and called her by another name, Dulcinea. That she was the woman to whom he sang about The Quest.
Hearing of The Quest sparks something inside the old man, and -- against the wishes of his family around him -- he asks her to sing the words to him. And little by little he starts to remember, as he, his valet Sancho Panza, and the lady herself are once more all together. "More misadventures!" a joyous Sancho shouts. "Adventures, old friend," the re-born Don Quixote corrects. And the three are finally again joined in glory.
But it's not to last. He's too weak, and the energy is too much, and he dies. The valet is distraught, but the woman explains that the words of the Don are not lost. "What do you mean, Aldonza?" he asks. And she explains that she no longer sees herself as that lowly scullery peasant, but is indeed the Don's Dulcinea.
After the requiem we return to "the present," as the guards of the Inquisition arrive for Don Miguel Cervantes. Yet amid the fear, the hardened prisoners are profoundly moved by the story of fighting for what is good and right, even if impossible, because it can redeem even the lowliest person. And the cynical leader of the prisoners hands Cervantes back his manuscript, for winning his case, realizing that the tale he had just told was what he had written in his cherished book. "Cervantes," the prisoner says, "I think Don Quixote is brother to Don Miguel." "God help us," Cervantes replies, "we are both men of La Mancha." With his fellow-prisoners wishing him on, Cervantes and his valet go to meet their fate.
Here then is Jose Maria Langlais as 'Cervantes / Don Quixote', Alicia Quiroga as 'Aldonza', and Herman Gallardo as 'Sancho Panza.' Apparently, Ms. Quiroga was the biggest star at the time because oddly she gets the final curtain call, not Langlais as Don Quixote. (And as I mentioned before, you get to see the strange emcee at the end, as well...)
There are two videos edited together, and there might be a slight overlap, but I think I got it close, and they should play back-to-back.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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