Mitch Leigh

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Mitch Leigh
Irwin Michnick

(1928-01-30)January 30, 1928
DiedMarch 16, 2014(2014-03-16) (aged 86)
New York, New York
Alma materYale University (1951)
Years active1951–2014
Known formusical Man of La Mancha
RelativesEve, David, Andy (children)
AwardsTony Award
Contemporary Classics Award

Mitch Leigh (born Irwin Michnick; January 30, 1928 – March 16, 2014) was an American musical theatre composer and theatrical producer best known for the musical Man of La Mancha.


Early years[edit]

Leigh was born in Brooklyn, New York as Irwin Michnick. He graduated from Yale in 1951 with a Bachelor of Music, and in 1952 received his Master of Music[1] under Paul Hindemith.

He began his career as a jazz musician, and writing commercials for radio and television. On the 1955 LP recording of Jean Shepherd Into the Unknown with Jazz Music Leigh wrote the jazz interludes between radio broadcaster Jean Shepherd's improvisations.


In 1965, Leigh collaborated with lyricist Joe Darion and writer Dale Wasserman to write a musical based on Wasserman's 1959 television play, I, Don Quixote. The resulting show, the musical Man of La Mancha opened on Broadway in 1965 and in its original engagement ran for 2,328 performances, and has been revived multiple times.

Leigh followed with the show Chu Chem, which he also produced, exactly a year after Man of La Mancha, but closed on the road. It finally opened on Broadway in 1989 but ran for only 68 performances.

Cry for Us All, based on the play, Hogan's Goat, opened on Broadway in 1970 but ran for 9 performances. Leigh was the producer as well as composer.[2] His musical Home Sweet Homer, starring Yul Brynner, officially opened on Broadway in January 1976 but closed after 1 performance. He produced and wrote the music for Saravá which ran for 101 performances in 1979. Leigh both produced and directed the 1985 revival of The King and I starring Brynner featuring in his final performances as the King of Siam.[citation needed]

Lee Adams asked Leigh to collaborate on a musical titled Mike, about producer Mike Todd, but it closed during its pre-Broadway tryout in 1988. After renaming it Ain't Broadway Grand!, the show made it to Broadway in 1993, but lasted 25 performances.[3] He wrote the musical Halloween with Sidney Michaels, and although Barbara Cook and José Ferrer were in the cast, it did not reach Broadway.[4]


Leigh established Music Makers, Inc., in 1957 as a radio and television commercial production house and was its creative director.[5] His television music included the instrumental music for the ABC Color Logo (1962–65),[6] the TV commercial jingle "Nobody Doesn't Like Sara Lee",[7][8], the Meet the Swinger Polaroid Swinger commercial sung by Barry Manilow and the Benson & Hedges theme "The Dis-Advantages of You," which reached the Top 40 for The Brass Ring in 1967[9][10] and was heard in a series of Benson & Hedges cigarette commercials at that time.[11][12]

Academic legacy[edit]

In 1977, Leigh and others at the Yale School of Music established the Keith Wilson scholarship, to be awarded "to an outstanding major in wind instrument playing." A building in The School of Music at Yale University was named "Abby and Mitch Leigh Hall" in 2001.[13]


Leigh died in Manhattan on March 16, 2014, from natural causes at the age of 86.[14]


Leigh won a Tony Award for composing the music for Man of La Mancha. He was also nominated for a Tony Award as the director of the 1985 revival of The King and I. He received the Contemporary Classics Award from the Songwriter's Hall of Fame for "The Impossible Dream".[5]


  1. ^ YAM March 2001 - Who's Been Blue Archived 2008-07-05 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Suskin, Steven."Mitch Leigh's Cry For Us All Comes to CD, Plus Kitty's Kisses" Archived 2010-01-07 at the Wayback Machine,, October 25, 2009
  3. ^ [1] Archived October 9, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Weber, Bruce (2011-05-02). "Sidney Michaels, 83, Author Of Hit Broadway Shows - Obituary (Obit); Biography -". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-01-05.
  5. ^ a b Baker, Dorie. "Composer Mitch Leigh Endows Chair in Jazz at Yale" (Press release). Yale University Office of Public Affairs. Archived from the original on 2010-07-15. Retrieved 2010-02-09.
  6. ^ ABC - Network ID - 1960s - YouTube
  7. ^ Classic Sara Lee Commercial, YouTube
  8. ^ "Advertising Jingle Music Folio Books",, accessed February 9, 2010
  9. ^ "The Dis-Advantages of You," The Brass Ring, 1967, YouTube
  10. ^ The Brass Ring, "The Dis-Advantages of You," 1967, YouTube
  11. ^ Vintage Benson & Hedges 1960s Cigarette TV Commercials, YouTube
  12. ^ The Disadvantages with the Benson & Hedges 100's, YouTube
  13. ^ "Yale School of Music Names Building in Honor of Mitch and Abby Leigh" Archived 2010-07-27 at the Wayback Machine,, September 7, 2001
  14. ^ "Mitch Leigh, Who Composed ‘Man of La Mancha,’ Dies at 86". The New York Times. March 17, 2014. Retrieved on December 25, 2016.

External links[edit]