Hal Linden is hoping to leave "Barney Miller" behind him as he returns to his roots: musical theater.

But even the character of Don Quixote in "Man of La Mancha," which Linden is playing at Boston's Wang Center, may not be enough to erase memories of Capt. Miller and his corps of colorful cops in the hit TV show of 1975-82."If everybody had their way, I'd still be Barney Miller," Linden said. "With another name, with a different haircut, a new suit, a different business. As soon as `Barney' was over, they wanted me to play Barney again, only this time as the head of a hospital, or running a hotel."

Linden, 57, said he loves the theater because it was his start in show business.

"I went into musical theater, really, as a singer, and for 17 years what I did was train to become a musical comedy leading man," he said. "I did it in `The Rothschilds' (for which he won a Tony Award), and then I did `Barney Miller' and I never did musicals again."