A sparkling revival of Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Candide’ is lovingly filling the stage of the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall in Washington, DC. Newly adapted from Voltaire’s satiric novel by director Mary Zimmerman, the work is brought closer to a perfect staging that has been much sought after in many a revisal ever since the work premiered on Broadway in 1956.
Zimmerman sums up the complicated tale: “It’s the story of a young man named Candide, who is the illegitimate nephew of a Baron in a small province called Westphalia. Along with the Baron’s daughter, he is tutored by a professor named Doctor Pangloss, who claims that Westphalia is “the best possible place in all the world.” When Candide falls in love with Cundegonde, his benefactors kick him out of the kingdom without a penny. The rest of the story follows Candide making his way in the world, having adventure after adventure. He is candid and honest and innocent, and he is mistreated and swindled over and over again. Cundegonde and her family also meet great misfortune in a war, so some of Candide’s adventures involve reuniting with her.”*
The glorious overture is still intact and the show quickly moves forward into some of its most well known numbers: “Life is Happiness Indeed,” “Best of All Possible Worlds” and “Oh Happy We.”
Adding to this funny and witty retelling are some well cast roles. Lauren Molina (Broadway’s ‘Rock of Ages’) as Cunegonde has the heavy task of performing “Glitter and Be Gay.” She is in fine form to display the comic tone of the song and the endurance to achieve its operatic proportions with ease.
As the naïve hero Candide, Geoff Packard delivers a delightful and finely sung performance. He is the hero of the story and has more than enough charm to win the audience over as he endures endless peril in each adventure. Hollis Resnik has the most showiest of the supporting roles as the Old Lady. She earns deserved applause for the tango infused “I Am So Easily Assimilated”.
The musical’s weakness is the tale itself which becomes tiring at the start of act two. One to two adventures too many, one wonders when does the misfortune end? Zimmerman manages to keep things alive utilizing the lavish sets by Daniel Ostling, the gorgeous costumes of Mara Blumenfeld and glowing lighting by T.J. Gerckens until the emotional “Make Your Garden Grow” is rendered by the ensemble at the end.
In a story that travels over oceans and through almost a dozen countries, Osltling creates a wood panel covered room where panels and trap doors shift to allow props and actors on stage or to reveal exotic backgrounds.
If some adventures falter, others make it up with enthralling stagecraft and performances resulting in a sumptuous revival. If a production of ‘Candide’ was Broadway ready again, this one could possibly be it even if for a limited run. The chequered Broadway history of this musical would agree.
|(All images: Shakespeare Theatre Company)|
- What: Shakespeare Theatre Company presents 'Candide'
- Where: Sidney Harman Hall, Washington, DC
- When: Tue, Wed, Sun 7:30pm; Thu-Sat 8pm; Sat & Sun 2pm
- Running Time: 2 hrs 45 min
- Ticket Prices: $68-$88
- Opening: Dec 7, 2010 (previews from Nov 26, 2010)
- Closing: Jan 9, 2011
- Website: shakespearetheatre.org
- Click 'Read more' below for more production & rehearsal photos
*from the Shakespeare Theatre Company publication 'Asides'