Tuesday, October 26, 2010

To Be Perfectly Candid, I Didn't Love Candide -- Theater Review

Theater Review

directed and newly adapted by Mary Zimmerman
Goodman Theatre, Chicago
Through October 31, 2010

Candide, an operetta originally created in 1956 based on an 18th century satire by Voltaire, features a beautiful score by legendary composer Leonard Bernstein. Over the years, the show has mutated through numerous revivals incorporating the efforts of various lyricists and a revised "book" by Hugh Wheeler in 1974. This is all very confusing to me too--you can read the Wikipedia article if you wish--but although Candide is a famous musical, it seems to commonly not be a critically-revered one.

I first saw it a couple years ago in a Porchlight Theatre Company production and really didn't like it much. Now, Goodman Theater has staged a version helmed by highly-acclaimed director Mary Zimmerman, who newly adapted the story from the original Voltaire. Basically it's the tale of a guy named Candide who is in love with a nobleman's daughter named Cunegonde but is excommunicated from the castle, so he bounces around the world in an attempt to reconnect with her and stumbles upon enlightenment in the process.

But long story short, despite the glorious music--including one of the most sublime overtures you'll ever hear--Candide still left me cold. To the point that despite all the talent involved, including a quite stellar cast, I found the arduous 3-hour performance less enjoyable than The Wedding Singer musical I had seen the night before.

Photo from GoodmanTheatre.org
I don't know the Voltaire, or sufficiently remember the Porchlight production, to discern what Zimmerman changed, so I won't bother ascribing blame. It seems likely that something about the whole thing, in any form, just isn't that captivating to me. Perhaps, like many full operas I see, I have an appreciation for the pedigree and can feel the beauty in small doses, but on an acute enjoyment level, it just doesn't move me.

I would feel worse about not being all that enchanted--just the Bernstein music, plus great singing & costuming, still qualifies the Goodman production as "good" though I think a concert performance would've been as good if not better than this overlong, full-blown staging--but the Tribune's Chris Jones and many who wrote comments to his review also were lukewarm at best.

Oh well, can't love everything. Although based on what seems to becoming a disturbingly low "batting average" in terms my enjoyment of what I've seen there, I am beginning to re-think my Goodman subscription. But with four productions remaining in this season, I'm hoping they can convince me otherwise.

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