Home News Richard Kiley: The Man Who Brought Don Quixote to Life

Richard Kiley: The Man Who Brought Don Quixote to Life

richard kiley

Richard Kiley was an American actor and singer best known for playing Don Quixote in the original Broadway production of Man of La Mancha. For this performance he won two Tony Awards as well as becoming one of the first actors ever to perform “The Impossible Dream” live onstage. But who exactly was Richard Kiley, and how did he become known as Don Quixote himself?

richard kiley
richard kiley

Early Life and Career

Richard Kiley was born March 31st 1922 in Chicago. Raised in a musical family, he discovered his passion for singing and acting at an early age. After attending Loyola University Chicago and serving in World War II in the U.S. Navy – Richard went on to pursue a career in theater and radio featuring plays such as Misalliance on Broadway before making his film debut with The Phenix City Story two years later.

Man of La Mancha and Beyond

Richard Kiley made his breakthrough role debut as Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha in 1965 – an adaptation of Miguel de Cervantes’ novel Don Quixote that ran for over 2,000 performances and garnered him three Tony awards and one Drama Desk Award, plus the Grammy award for Best Musical Theater Album (his cast album also won). Additionally he reprised this role for subsequent revivals on Broadway (1972 and 1977) as well as film version (1970).

Kiley went on to work in theater, film, and television throughout his career; winning yet another Tony Award for The Pirates of Penzance as Best Actor in a Musical in 1981; as well as three Emmy Awards he earned for A Year in the Life, Thorn Birds and Picket Fences roles respectively. Kiley became well-known for his versatility as well as distinctive voice lent to documentaries and narrations until his untimely death on March 5, 1999 at age 76 due to bone marrow cancer.

Legacy and Influence

Richard Kiley is widely revered as one of the greatest musical theater actors ever, best-known for his passionate portrayal of Don Quixote – a role that transformed him as an artist – which inspired many other actors such as Peter O’Toole, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Placido Domingo to assume similar roles; also numerous singers covered “The Impossible Dream”, including Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Luther Vandross among many others. Richard was honored with induction into both American Theater Hall of Fame (1996) and Hollywood Walk of Fame (2006).

Richard Kiley was renowned for bringing Don Quixote to life. A gifted and charismatic performer, his performances left an indelible mark upon audiences and critics alike – one who dreamt the impossible dream but managed to realize it himself.

Richard Kiley was a legendary actor and singer who starred as Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha, a musical based on Cervantes’ novel. He won multiple awards for his theater, film, and television work, and influenced many other performers with his voice and versatility. He died in 1999, but his legacy lives on as one of the greatest musical theater actors of all time.


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