A CurtainUp Review
Performed in the round, the stage is essentially bare, which is probably the last way anyone would imagine staging Candide. However, a few props and furnishings serve many ingenious purposes, and the show is actually elaborate in terms of lighting and imagination. The space becomes a panorama of transitions and music, filled with a changing array of virtual locations that is crowded with constant action.
The cast is fine, as it usually is at the Arden. Ben Dibble as Candide is quite miraculous, which is nothing new for him. Scott Greer, looking like a reincarnation of Orson Welles, masterfully hosts the action as Voltaire, and also plays Dr. Pangloss. Liz Filios's lovely voice suits Cunegonde, and Mary Martello's Old Woman is funny and solid. Among other standout performances are those by Christopher Patrick Mullen, Richard Ruiz, and Jeffrey Coon. The whole ensemble is precise, a very good thing for this bustling show.
The somewhat more serious, balanced view offered here takes a bit of the burnish off Candide's satiric edge, which achieves its effect through the contrast between foolish optimism and grim reality. Yet this production's approach helps to make more sense of the ending which hasn't always seemed to fit the rest of the show. It also makes it seem like it takes a long time to get there. And it does. . . three hours. .
While staging in the round makes the piece accessible, it necessitates that the actors frequently turn away to face other sectors of the audience, and that's during songs with lots and lots of lyrics. The gist comes across through the activity, but often the words are hard to make out. Assisted listening devices (ALD's) are available. If you go, it might be a good idea to request one so that you'll hear all the great lyrics.
The Arden version of Voltaire's satiric, irredeemably picaresque story boasts a cast of 9, an ensemble of 11, and a 9 piece orchestra. Eric Ebbenga directs Leonard Bernstein's exuberant, bright music. I miss the color and silliness of previous versions even as I find this tidied up production admirable and well worthwhile.
In the Heights
Playbill 2007-08 Yearbook
Leonard Maltin's 2008 Movie Guide