New York can eat their hearts out! When it comes to extraordinary theater, New York has nothing over Chicago. “Candide”, Leonard Bernstein’s musical production based on the work of Voltaire with a book by Hugh Wheeler and lyrics by Richard Wilbur has been adapted by Mary Zimmerman into a marvelous production at The Goodman. It is hard to describe this enchanting musical story about the “eternal optimist”, Candide ( brilliantly played by Geoff Packard) who endures every type of situation to end up with his true love,Cunegonde ( the lovely and talented Lauren Molina). When I say situations, I mean situations. He is banished,shipwrecked, soldiered, swindled, chased, whipped and watches his teacher be hung as he is forced to travel around the world to get back to Cunegonde.
What can one call “Candide”? It is not really a musical comedy! It is not an opera! It is a combination of both of these along with some great wit and charm as we learn about the negatives and positives of life and people. We also learn that all things happen for a reason and for the best, so we are told by Candide’s teacher Pangloss ( played by one of Chicago’s finest Larry Yando, among a few other roles he takes on). The entire cast with the exception of our two leads and “The Old Lady” ( a role that has been in the past a kind of throw-away, but in this version is a show stopping experience played by veteran show stopper Hollis Resnik- always a delight) take on many roles. Nineteen actors take on a multitude of roles and do so to perfection. Zimmerman uses the stage and the clever trap doors to keep this almost three hours moving quickly ( as quickly as three hours can go) and the clever choreography by Daniel Pelzig and the musical arrangements and orchestrations by Musical Director Doug Peck ( who once gain shows his amazing abilities) all make this a prodction that would make Broadway stand back and look!
Every little detail is sheer perfection: Daniel Ostling’s set, Mara Blumenfeld’s glorious costumes, Richard Woodbury’s sound and T.J. Gerkens’ lighting are all icing on what is already a perfectly baked cake. The ensemble of cast members , all handle each and every role they play as if it were the most important role in the play, and as many of you know, I truly feel that in many cases, the ensemble players can make or break a production- this one makes it! Tom Aulino,Spencer Curnutt, Rebecca Finnegan, Govind Kumar, Rob Lindley, Erik Lochtefeld ( who does a great Maximilian, brother to Cunegonde),Tracy Lynn Olivera, Jesse J. Perez ( his role as Candide’s sidekick, Cacambo is hilarious), Emma Rosenthal,Margo Seibert,Thomas Adrian Simpson,Joey Stone, Tempe Thomas, Joe Tokarz, Ryan Lanning White and veteran Jonathan Weir ( who shows off his pipes in this one) – bravo! I must say that have Weir, Yando and Resnik on the stage at the Goodman is a treat unto itself.
How can one deal with the calamities that befall us? This is the main question that I think Voltaire has posed. Do all things really happen for the best? In our world today with all that is going on, seeing this piece reborn allows us to further explore what Voltaire was really saying and with the beautiful music that Bernstein composed, the lyrics by Wilbur and some others by Bernstein himself along with Dorothy Parker, John Latouche,Lillian Hellman and of course Stephen Sondheim, one can see why this classic needed to be reborn , so that new audiences could hear the score and see the story. Zimmerman’s new adaptation breathes new life into a 50 year old classic and a marvelous evening of entertainment. What a marvelous kick-off for the start of the 10th year in the new facility. Let us continue to watch the Goodman Garden Grow( the finale to the show is “make Our Garden Grow”, probably the most memorable of the 27 plus pieces)
“Candide” has already been extended through October 31st, and I doubt if they can go any longer, so I suggest that you order your tickets right away. This is on my “not to be missed list”. Performances are as follows:
Tuesday evenings at 7:30 p.m. ( October 12th and 19th)
Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. ( matinees at 2 p.m. 9/30,10/7 and 10/14)
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 8 p.m. ( 2 p.m. matinees 10/9- 10/23)
Sundays at 2 p.m. ( 10/3.10/10 and 10/24 7:30 p.m. peformances as well)
Tickets range from $25-$85 ( just watching the scenes with Resnik are worth the price of the ticket) and can be purchased at The Goodman Theatre box office located at 170 N. Dearborn, by phone at 312-443-3800 or online at www.GoodmanTheatre.org
There are some half price mezzanine seats available- check the website for explanation.