adapted from Voltaire by Hugh Wheeler lyrics by Richard Wilbur additional lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, John Latouche, Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker, Leonard Bernstein music by Leonard Bernstein.
Menier Chocolate Factory 53 Southwark Street SE1 1RU extended to 1 March 2014.
Tue-Sat 8pm Mat Sat, Sun, 31 Dec & 2 Jan 3.30pm no performance 24-26 Dec, 2 Jan no evening performance 31 Dec.
Runs 2hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7478 1713.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 December.
Strong cast serve-up distinctive score and lyrics with verve.
When not composing musicals or symphonicscores, Leonard Bernstein’s conducting career included advocacy of the mighty symphonies of Gustav Mahler, with a distinguished recording of Mahler’s Third Symphony.
Its six movements, lasting around 100 minutes, move between the tender and the raucous. In this respect, Bernstein’s Candide score might be a Mahler symphony with action attached.
It could help give the piece unity to see it as symphonic ideas interwoven. For Voltaire’s short novel is a series of riffs on a soon-established theme, that belief in this being the best of all possible worlds is undermined by experience.
Bernstein’s main melodies come early on, being echoed at dramatically apt moments, while colourful phrases and rhythms reflecting the exotic travels events foist on Fra Fee’s open-faced and trusting young Candide, recur with Mahlerian irony to energise the fantastic action.
Which, in Michael White’s Chocolate Factory revival, has the overt theatricality of travelling players, beginning by assembling props for a performance. The opening dance routine declares the self-consciousness of the characters as performers in their deliberate grouping for the number’s climax – an impression repeated in the final song, were the group pose reappears, with added red sheep.
Cast-members run energetically among the audience, on walkways and bridges decorated like scenery from a saloon-bar Western. There are moments of interplay with the audience (an auto-da-fe mixes burnt heretics with an Inquisitor offering audience members toasted marshmallows) while Bernstein, setting American poet and Molière translator Richard Wilbur’s literate lyrics, incorporates Latin American and Viennese sound-worlds in his score.
The wise, hidden civilisation of El Dorado has a grave sympathy, where priests move with stately consideration. Elsewhere, it’s a hectic world, the score’s technical demands climaxing in a display aria for Cunegonde, which Scarlett Strallen delivers with a fervour in which joyous musical whirls seem to reflect delight in jewelled wealth. Throughout, James Dreyfus as the tutor Pangloss dispenses vacuous optimism in the face of reality.
A joyous show overall, continuous theatrical invention and musical energy cover the story’s one-trick device, and ensure the audience has a good time watching the characters having anything but.
Pangloss/Cacambo/Martin: James Dreyfus.
Candide: Fra Fee.
Paquette: Cassidy Janson.
Maximilian: David Thaxton.
Cunegonde: Scarlett Strallen.
Baroness: Helen Walsh.
Baron/Inquisitor/Din Issachar/Ragotski: Michael Cahill.
Officer/Archbishop/Governor/Vanderdendur: Ben Lewis.
Officer/Our Lady of Oporto: Frankie Jenna.
Informer/Spanish Waiter: Jeremy Batt.
Old Lady: Jackie Clune.
Spanish Waitress: Carly Anderson.
Captain/Sailor/Gondolier: Christopher Jacobsen.
Slave-Driver: Matt Wilman.
Slave Girl: Rachel Spurrell.
Director: Michael White.
Designer/Costume: Paul Farnsworth.
Lighting: Paul Anderson.
Sound: Gareth Owen.
Orchestrator: Jason Carr.
Musical Supervisor: David Charles Abell.
Musical Director: Seann Alderking.
Choreographer: Adam Cooper.
Puppets: Nigel Plaskett, Polly Beestone, Susan Dacre.
Dialect coach: Anne-Marie Speed.
Wigs: Sally Tynan.
Dance captain: Frankie Jenna.
Assistant director: Josh Seymour.
Assistant musical director: Léon Charles.