Brian Stokes Mitchell, the 'Man of La Mancha'

Star's Quixotic Appeal Revives a Broadway Standard

Brian Stokes Mitchell as Don Quixote (right) and Ernie Sabella as Sancho in the Broadway production of Man of La Mancha. Joan Marcus hide caption

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Mitchell (center) and La Mancha cast members. Joan Marcus hide caption

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Hear excerpts from Mitchell's performances:

audio icon Man of La Mancha (I, Don Quixote)

audio icon The Impossible Dream (The Quest)

CD Cover for Man of La Mancha

Cover of the 2002 cast recording of 'Man of La Mancha' hide caption

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Mitchell fans Linda Angelic and Mary Walsh

Brian Stokes Mitchell fans Linda Angelic (left) and Mary Walsh. Angelic has made the trip from Providence, R.I., three times to see Mitchell perform. Tracy Wahl, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Tracy Wahl, NPR

This is what The New York Times has to say about Brian Stokes Mitchell:

"No other actor can match his singing voice. No other singer can claim his acting range or experience. No other man -— at least, no one who works in the theater regularly -— can say, "I want to play Don Quixote in 'Man of La Mancha'" and bring it about..."

This is what fan Linda Angelic of Providence, Rhode Island, says about him:

"I love you, Brian!" She says this standing in a downpour outside New York's Al Hirschfeld Theatre, having just learned the "unacceptable" news that she won't be seeing her favorite Broadway star perform, despite driving through the rain to the Big Apple. She had already seen Mitchell perform the timeless role of a self-made knight errant twice in the past eight months, and was back for a third fix.

"The fans who were there that night said they couldn't get enough of his deep baritone voice," NPR's Jacki Lyden reports. "He definitely has reached heartthrob status among a lot of the women we talked to."

La Mancha is Mitchell's sixth Broadway musical, and he's also been nominated for a Tony for his straight dramatic work in August Wilson's King Hedley II.

But Man of La Mancha — based on the Cervantes novel of the early 1600s and reborn as a musical in the 1960s — has always had a dear place in Mitchell's heart. He first played the title role at age 17, and his own dream — far from impossible, as it turns out — was to see the production return to Broadway.

It opened in December after an out-of-town tryout in Washington, D.C., and is about to end its run at the Al Hirschfeld Theater on W. 45th Street.

Mitchell says he feels the production was needed as a breath of idealism in a world turned deeply cynical, though skeptics felt it might miss the mark with today's audiences because of the tenor of the times. It was revived a decade earlier without making much of an impact.

"The reason I wanted to do the show is because there's a lot of fear and hatred and xenophobia floating around," Mitchell says. "And I think people need this show and this story."

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