Book by Lillian Hellman, Hugh Wheeler, Michael Stewart, John Wells, John Caird (Today the book used is Hugh Wheeler’s, generally.)
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics by Richard Wilbur, John LaTouche, Dorothy Parker, Leonard Bernstein, Lillian Hellman, John Wells, Stephen Sondheim, Bernstein
adapted from Voltaire’s novella of the same name


Opened at the Martin Beck Theatre    December 1, 1956    73 performances (revived many times, in 1974, running 740 performances. Known as “The Chelsea Version”, it cut over half the numbers, was Directed by Harold Prince, and the show ran 105 minutes – to its benefit. A fuller “Opera Version” is two acts has been revived numerous times, as well. Then Bernstein did another version, and recorded it. And on and on, there are at least five versions of this show!)
Original Director: Tyrone Guthrie
Original Choreographer: Anna Sokolow
Original Producer: Ethel Linder Reiner in assoc. with Lester Osterman, Jr.
Original Leads: Cuneganda: Barbara Cook    Dr. Pangloss: Max Adrian    Candide: Robert Rounseville
Cast Size: Male: 4 Female: 4 Ensemble: At least 12, usually much larger Total Cast Size: 20-30 generally.
Orchestra: 13, and larger. It’s been played numerous time by Philharmonic Orchestras. Bernstein orchestrated the famous and fantastic overture. The rest was orchestrated by others.
Published Script: Long out of print. Various version can be found on the Internet.
Production Rights: MTI (Musical Theater International)
Recordings: Many. 1991 with opera star Jerry Hadley is “complete”, with all the Bernstein material. The ’56 original features Barbara Cook. The ’74 recording is great fun, trimmed from the rather ponderous original to 105 minutes. A terrific 2005 version has Kristin Chenowith and Patti Lupone, I recommend it as the most current and fun version. It is also a “concert” version, and was only partially staged – I thought to its benefit, again. All these versions are available on CD!
Film: The 2005 is on DVD, well worth a look.
Other shows by the authors: Wheeler: A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd   Bernstein: On The Town, Wonderful Town, West Side Story
Awards: The original was nominated for 5 Tonys and lost them all. The ’74 version was nominated for 7 Tonys and won 4, including Best Book for a Musical (Wheeler). The ’97 version was nominated for four Tonys and won one. The 2000 version was nominated for four Oliviers and won two, including Best Revival of a Musical. And so on…


Depend on the version. Do a reduced version like the ’74 or ’05 version, unless you’re an opera company.

A show for opera companies, colleges and universities with very strong music programs perhaps focused on classical, Dinner Theater companies with access to a deep talent pool of singing actors, the same for some regional theaters, and of course, professional productions. Could be great for a large stock company, as it can be done as a staged concert (see the 2005 version) effectively, requiring just about no tech, an easy load in and out.

Be Warned:

This is operetta, requiring trained, expert voices comfortable with comic opera material. The average Musical Theater performer cannot sing this score, especially the roles of Candide and Cuneganda. Even your ensemble must sound like an opera chorus.

The topic at hand is often sex, and the discussion is open and can make an audience uncomfortable, depending on the crowd. If your audience is very staid and proper, this is not a good show to select.

THE STORY: (Where to begin? There are many versions of Candide. And they each use different songs, as well as a revised book. Let’s start with an outline covering the original ’56 version, from Wikipedia…)

ACT ONE: In the country of Westphalia, Candide is about to be married to the lovely Cunegonde. Dr. Pangloss, Candide’s teacher expounds his famous philosophy, to the effect that all is for the best (“The Best of All Possible Worlds”) The happy couple sing their marriage duet (“Oh, Happy We”), and the ceremony is about to take place (“Wedding Chorale”) when war breaks out between Westphalia and Hesse. Westphalia is destroyed, and Cunegonde is seemingly killed. Candide takes comfort in the Panglossian doctrine (“It Must Be So”) and sets out on his journeys.

In the public square of Lisbon (“Lisbon Fair”), the Infant Casmira, a deranged mystic in the caravan of an Arab conjuror, predicts dire happenings (“The Prediction”), leaving the public in terror (“Pray For Us”). Candide discovers Pangloss, who has come down with syphilis, yet remains optimistic (“Dear Boy”). The Inquisition appears, in the persons of two ancient Inquisitors and their lawyer, and many citizens are tried and sentenced to hang, including Candide and Dr. Pangloss (“The Inquisition: Auto-de-Fe”). Suddenly an earthquake occurs, killing Dr. Pangloss, and Candide barely escapes.

Candide, faced with the loss of both Cunegonde and Dr. Pangloss, starts out for Paris. He is unable to reconcile Dr. Pangloss’s ideas with the bitter events that have occurred, but concludes that the fault must lie within himself, rather than in the philosophy of optimism (“It Must Be Me”).

Cunegonde turns up alive in Paris (“The Paris Waltz”), a demi-mondaine in a house shared by a Marquis and a Sultan. A party is in progress. Urged by the Old Lady, who serves as her duenna, Cunegonde arrays herself in her jewels (“Glitter and Be Gay”). Candide stumbles into the scene and is amazed to find Cunegonde still alive (“You Were Dead, You Know”). In a duel, he kills both the Marquis and the Sultan, and flees with Cunegonde, accompanied by the Old Lady.

They fall in with a band of devout Pilgrims on their way to the New World and sail with them (“Pilgrims’ Procession” / “Alleluia”). Arriving in Buenos Aires, the group is brought to the Governor’s Palace, where all except Cunegonde and the Old Lady are immediately enslaved. A street cleaner appears in the person of the pessimistic Martin, warning Candide of the future. The Governor serenades Cunegonde (“My Love”) and she, abetted by the Old Lady, agrees to live in the palace (“I Am Easily Assimilated”), but Candide, fired by reports of Eldorado, escapes once more and sets off to seek his fortune, planning to return for Cunegonde later (“Quartet Finale”).

ACT TWO: In the heat of Buenos Aires, Cunegonde, the Old Lady and the Governor display their fraying nerves (“Quiet”), and the Governor resolves to get rid of the tiresome ladies. Candide returns from Eldorado (“Eldorado”), his pockets full of gold and searches for Cunegonde. The Governor, however, has had both Cunegonde and the Old Lady tied up in sacks and carried to a boat in the harbor. He tells Candide that the women have sailed for Europe, and Candide eagerly purchases a leaky ship from the Governor and dashes off. As the Governor and his suite watch from his terrace, the ship with Candide and Martin casts off and almost immediately sinks (“Bon Voyage”).

Candide and Martin have been rescued from the ship, and are floating about the ocean on a raft. Martin is devoured by a shark, but Dr. Pangloss miraculously reappears. Candide is overjoyed to find his old teacher, and Pangloss sets about repairing the damage done his philosophy by Candide’s experiences.

In a luxurious palazzo of Venice (“Money, Money, Money”), Cunegonde turns up as a scrubwoman, the Old Lady as a woman of fashion (Madame Sofronia) (“What’s the Use?”). Candide and Dr. Pangloss appear and are caught up by the merriment, the wine and the gambling, and Candide is swindled out of his remaining gold by the avaricious crowd (“The Venice Gavotte”). He is penniless, without friends and without hope.

Utterly disillusioned, he returns to the ruined Westphalia. Cunegonde, Pangloss, and the Old Lady appear and within them a spark of optimism still flickers. Candide, however, has had enough of the foolish Panglossian ideal and tells them all that the only way to live is to try and make some sense of life (“Make Our Garden Grow”).

(OKAY, now, here’s an outline of the ’74 version, from the Music Theater International site – the version they offer rights to. You” notice that in this version, the wonderful “Life Is Happiness Indeed” was added, lyrics by Mr. Sondheim. I think this number helps the show quite a bit.)

Voltaire, a very old man in a nightshirt and nightcap, wakes. He takes a pen from an inkwell and picks up a manuscript beginning to relate the tale of four young people - Candide, Paquette, Maximilian, and Cunegonde - living in Westphalia in the castle of the Baron Thunder-Ten-Tronck. The noble Candide is a bastard nephews of the Baron, the sexy Paquette serves as a maid to the Baroness, the beautiful Cunegonde is the Baron’s virgin daughter, and the handsome Maximilian is her self-centered brother. The four, with the Baron and Baroness, describe their perfect existence (“Life Is Happiness Indeed”).

Voltaire explains that the four young people are introduced to the realities of life by the wise Dr. Pangloss. Voltaire transforms himself into Dr. Pangloss by putting on an academic cap and gown. He leads his students into the castle schoolroom where he lectures them on the fact, that despite any evidence to the contrary, the world they are living in is the best any world can be (“The Best Of All Possible Worlds”). He dismisses everyone but Paquette, insisting she must stay for an advanced physics lesson. As Cunegonde runs off, she observes Pangloss making romantic overtures to Paquette. Pangloss explains he is giving Paquette a lesson in gravity.

Candide appears, chinning himself on a tree branch. Cunegonde joins him. He is madly in love with her. She proceeds to give him an advanced physics lesson and they kiss, happily making plans for their future together (“Oh, Happy We”). They are suddenly interrupted by Maximilian, the Baron, the Baroness, Dr. Pangloss, and Paquette. When Candide and Cunegonde state their intention to marry, the Baron says his daughter cannot marry a bastard and Candide is exiled. Candide, sorely grieved, is still certain that this awful turn of events is for the best (“It Must Be So”). On the road, two men trick him into drinking to the health of the King of Bulgaria, stuff him in a sack, and drag him off to the Bulgarian Army.

Bulgarian soldiers enter and rapidly slaughter the Baron, Baroness, and Maximilian. They carry Cunegonde off, kicking. They plan to sell her to the men of their regiment (“O Miserere”). Candide’s captors have stopped to rest. He is still in the sack. His captors are shot to death by two Westphalian soldiers A Bulgarian soldier then brings an abused Cunegonde onstage and leaves her for dead. Cunegonde and Candide - who is still inside the sack - lament their lost innocence, united in spirit, although many miles apart (“Oh, Happy We – Reprise”).

Next, Dr. Voltaire explains that Candide was released from the sack by a band of strolling players and abandoned in Holland. Cunegonde is moved from brothel to brothel until she catches the attention of both Issachar, a very wealthy man in Lisbon, and the Grand Inquisitor, who now share her pleasures. Cunegonde reflects on her sordid role in life (“Glitter And Be Gay”). 

A volcano erupts near Lisbon at the same time an earthquake shakes the city.

Candide is washed up on the shore of a fishing village. When he suggests that this turn in events casts doubt on the ‘best of all possible worlds’ theory, he is scolded by Dr. Voltaire. Dr. Pangloss appears as a beggar who has lost his nose and several fingers. He tells Candide of the demise of everyone at the castle and informs him that Cunegonde is dead. Candide is distraught. Pangloss assures him everything that has happened is for the best. An agent of the Inquisition overhears his words and takes them to mean Candide and Pangloss do not believe in original sin; they are arrested as heretics. The Inquisition plans to purge the city of heretics to prevent future earthquakes.

A crowd of excited citizens gather to witness the trials and executions of the heretics. A splendidly attired Cunegonde and her companion, the Old Lady, watch from a box as the crowd celebrates (“Auto Da Fé”). Candide and Pangloss are tried by the Inquisitor and recognized by Cunegonde. Pangloss is hung and Cunegonde faints as Candide is flogged. Dr. Voltaire points out that with things so bad, they can only get better. The Old Lady blindfolds Candide and, unbeknownst to him, leads him to Cunegonde. On the way, he mourns his state (“This World”). The blindfold is removed and he sees Cunegonde (“You Were Dead, You Know”). Both of Cunegonde’s lovers visit her while Candide is there. Candide accidentally kills both men. The Old Lady insists that they must flee to Cadiz. She grabs a box of jewels and they escape.

When the jewels are stolen, the Old Lady decides to raise funds by seducing three Old Dons (“I Am Easily Assimilated”). However, they resist her charms and totter away. The gullible Candide is tricked into leading a relief party to rescue the Holy Jesuits of Montevideo from heathen attackers. He is told he will be the captain of a ship that leaves in three hours. Candide, Cunegonde, and the Old Lady celebrate their coming journey to the New World (“I Am Easily Assimilated - Reprise”).

In the New World, the swaggering hot-blooded Governor of Cartagena, Colombia, is considering the purchase of two new concubines. The concubines turn out to be Paquette and Maximilian, who is now dressed as a female. The Governor rejects Paquette and selects Maximilian, for whom he expresses a strong attraction (“My Love”). Over Maximilian’s objections the Governor summons a priest to marry them. During the vows the Governor discovers his bride has two pineapples stuffed in his shirt. The Governor orders Maximilian hanged, but the priest offers to buy Maximilian for his Holy Fraternity.

On board the ship, Cunegonde confesses her growing doubt in the teachings of Dr. Pangloss. Just then, the ship is boarded by pirates, who knock Candide unconscious and carry Cunegonde and the Old Lady away. When Candide questions man’s need to massacre, cheat, and murder, Dr. Voltaire’s voice again scolds him.

Candide arrives at the Jesuit’s stronghold where he is joyfully reunited with Paquette and Maximilian, now dressed as monks. When Maximilian learns of Candide’s intention to marry Cunegonde, he assaults Candide, who accidentally kills him. Paquette disguises Candide as a monk and they escape into the jungle.

After weeks of travel, they come upon the utopian city of Eldorado, where everything is truly for the best. There is no war, no hunger, and no greed. The people and the animals are all wise, gentle and articulate. Two talkative pink sheep converse with a peaceful lion to prove the point (“Eldorado”). Candide and Paquette who are dressed in golden robes soon realize they hate peace and solitude. Candide misses Cunegonde. Candide and Paquette pack up the sheep with gold and jewels and leave.

In the meantime, the Old Lady is abandoned by the pirates and carried off by a Pygmy. The Pygmy sells her to a German botanist who sells her as a Madam of a brothel.

They travel to Cartagena, where they find the Old Lady on the street. They buy her freedom and she tells them Cunegonde is in Constantinople. Spying their riches, the Governor offers to sail them to Constantinople on the frigate Santa Rosalia. He rows them to the frigate on a shaky-looking skiff (“Bon Voyage”). The skiff capsizes; Candide, Paquette, and the Old Lady end up on a tiny desert island with a single palm tree. They have lost their sheep and their new fortune. The sheep find them and they all rejoice (“Best Of All Possible Worlds - Reprise”). They see a sail in the distance and know they are saved.

They arrive in Constantinople in time to see Cunegonde jump out of a cake dressed as a Muslim slave. Candide and Cunegonde reunite again (“You Were Dead, You Know - Reprise”). He buys her, reserving one bag of gold on Paquette’s advice. Then Maximilian, who wasn’t killed after all, reappears as a slave, convincing Candide to buy his freedom with the last bag of gold. The Old Lady offers to solve the future for the weary band by leading them to the Cave of a Wise Man. They are met by a Sage, who turns out to be Dr. Pangloss. He prattles on about the meaning of Life. While Pangloss babbles, a stray piece of paper floats into Candide’s hand. The paper states that the natural function of man is work.

Candide is now inspired to say that they will buy a farm and cast aside wondering about the meaning of a meaningless world. They will fulfill their natural function working God’s earth from dawn to dusk (“Make Our Garden Grow”). A cow appears, as Candide, Cunegonde, and the company in rustic clothes pick up pitchforks, buckets, and other farm implements. As they lift their grateful eyes to God, the cow drops dead of the pox and Dr. Voltaire, back in nightshirt, draws the curtain.

(AND here’s an outline to the final version Bernstein approved, in 1989, again off of Wikipedia.)

ACT ONE: The operetta begins with an overture. The chorus welcomes everyone to Westphalia (“Westphalia Chorale”) and Voltaire begins to narrate his story. Candide, the illegitimate nephew of Baron Thunder-ten-Tronck, lives in the Baron’s castle Schloss Thunder-ten-Tronck. He is bullied by the Baroness and her son Maximillian. Paquette, a prostitute, also lives in the castle. However, Candide is in love with Cunegonde, the Baroness’ daughter as Maximillian, Candide, Cunegonde and Paquette find their happiness in life (“Life is Happiness Indeed”). The four discover that Dr. Pangloss, a man thought to be the world’s greatest philosopher, has taught them happiness (“The Best of All Possible Worlds”). The philosopher asks his students to summarize what they have learned (“Universal Good”). Professing their love to each other at a park, Candide and Cunegonde dream of what married life would look like (“Oh, Happy We”).

The Baron, however, is angered at what Candide has done to Cunegonde, as he is a social inferior. Candide is promptly exiled, wandering alone with his faith and optimism to cling to (“It Must Be So”). He is then recruited by the Bulgar Army, who plots to liberate Schloss Thunder-ten-Tronck. His escape attempt fails, and is recaptured by the Army. The Bulgar Army decides to attack Westphalia. In the castle, the Baron’s family prays as the chorus joins in (“Westphalia”). However, the city is promptly attacked, and the Baroness and Cunegonde are both killed (“Battle Music”). Candide returns to the castle’s ruins and searches for Cunegonde (“Candide’s Lament”).
Some time later, Candide becomes a beggar. He gives the last of his coins to Pangloss, who reveals that he was revived by an anatomist’s scalpel. He then tells Candide of his syphilis condition brought on by Paquette (“Dear Boy”). A merchant offers the two employment before sailing off to Lisbon, Portugal. However, as they arrive, a volcano erupts and the ensuing earthquake results in the death of 30,000 people. Pangloss and Candide are blamed for their actions, arrested as heretics and publicly tortured to face the Grand Inquisitor. Pangloss is hanged and Candide is flogged (“Auto-da-fé”). Candide eventually ends up in Paris, France, where Cunegonde dances with Don Issachar and the city’s Cardinal Archbishop (“The Paris Waltz”). She contemplates what she has done while in Paris (“Glitter and Be Gay”). Candide finds Cunegonde and reunites with her (“You Were Dead, You Know”). However, the Old Lady, Cunegonde’s companion, forewarns Cunegonde and Candide of Issachar and the Archbishop’s arrival. Candide inadvertently kills the two by stabbing them with a knife.

The three flee to Cadiz, Spain with Cunegonde’s jewels, where the Old Lady tells Candide and Cunegonde about her past. The jewels are stolen and the Old Lady offers to sing for Candide’s dinner (“I Am Easily Assimilated”). The French police arrive and attempt to apprehend Candide for murdering Issachar and the Archbishop. Candide soon befriends Cacambo, and accepts him as his valet. Accepting an offer to fight the Jesuits in South America against the Spanish government, Candide decides to take Cunegonde and the Old Lady to the New World, and the four begin their journey on a ship (“Quartet Finale”).

ACT TWO: In Montevideo, Uruguay, Maximillian and Paquette, now revived and disguised as slave girls, reunite. Soon after, Don Fernando d’Ibaraa y Figueroa y Mascarenes y Lampourdos y Souza, the governor of the city, falls in love with Maximilian, but quickly realizes his mistake and has a priest (“My Love”). Meanwhile, Candide, Cunegonde and the Old Lady also arrive in Montevideo, where the Governor falls in love with Cunegonde. The Old Lady convinces Cunegonde that her marriage to the governor will support her financially (“We Are Women”). Candide and Cacambo eventually stumble upon a Jesuit camp and are joined by the Father and Mother Superiors (“The Pilgrims’ Procession - Alleluia”). Candide soon discovers that the Mother Superior is actually Paquette and the Father Superior is Maximilian. When Candide tells Maximilian that he will marry Cunegonde, however, Maximilian angrily challenges him to a fight. However, Maximilian is once again inadvertently stabbed to death by Candide. Candide is forced to flee into the jungle as a result.

Three years later, Cunegonde and the Old Lady discuss the miseries shared by the upper classes (“Quiet”). Meanwhile, Candide and Cacambo are starving and lost in the jungles. Finding a boat in the ocean, they float downriver into a cavern for 24 hours until they finally reach Eldorado, the city of gold (“Introduction to Eldorado”). The two discover that the locals worship one god as opposed to three, palaces of science, rosewater and stones with cinnamon and clove scents. Dissatisfied without Cunegonde, Candide steals the town’s golden sheep and attempts to leave, but is stopped by the locals. They construct a lift that will guide him, Cacambo and the sheep over the mountain (“The Ballad of Eldorado”). One by one, the sheep die until only two remain. Unwilling to go back to Montevideo, Candide gives Cacambo one of the golden sheep to ransom Cunegonde, telling them that they will meet again in Venice, Italy.

Arriving at Suriname, Candide meets Martin, a local pessimist. He shows him a slave with one hand and one foot, which is the result of Europeans eating sugar. Candide is unable to convince Martin otherwise (“Words, Words, Words”). Vanderdendur, a Dutch villain, offers his ship, the Santa Rosalia, in exchange for the golden sheep. Candide is excited when he is told that the Santa Rosalia is to depart for Venice. The locals and Vandendur wish Candide a safe journey to Venice (“Bon Voyage”). However, the ship sinks, and Martin and Vandendur drown as a result. After reuniting with his golden sheep, Candide boards a galley, meeting five deposed kings. The galley is rowed by Pangloss, revived once again. The kings say that they will live humbly, serving both god and men, and Pangloss leads their debate (“The Kings’ Barcarolle”).

The ship arrives in Venice, where the Carnival festival is taking place (“Money, Money, Money”). While the kings play roulette and baccarat, Candide searches for Cunegonde and meets Maximilian, who is revived once again and now is the corrupt Prefect of Police and the town’s leader. Paquette is now one of the town’s prostitutes. Cunegonde and the Old Lady are employed to encourage the gamblers (“What’s the Use?”). Pangloss celebrates a victory after winning roulette, and spends her money with the other ladies (“The Venice Gavotte”). Candide, however, begins to have doubts of his life (“Nothing More Than This”). Candide returns to Westphalia in distraught and the others purchase a small farm. Candide does not speak for several days and the chorus says that life is just life and paradise is nothing (“Universal Good”). Candide finally speaks and resolves to marry Cunegonde (“Make Our Garden Grow”).

THE SONGS: (Okay, this would depend on the version, as well. The outlines above provide you a clear sense of the variation in the list of songs. I’ll stick to the ’04 concert version, my personal favorite. It is essentially the ’74 version. I think…)

“Overture”, “Life Is Happiness Indeed”, “The Best Of All Possible Worlds”, “Oh, Happy We”, “It Must Be So”, “Westphalia Chorale”, “Dear Boy”, “Glitter And Be Gay”, “Auto Da Fay”, “This World”, “You Were Dead, You Know”, “I’m Easily Assimilated”, “Quartet Finale”, “My Love”, “Barcarolle (Upon A Ship At Sea”), “We Are Women”, “Alleluia”, “Quiet – The Sheep’s Song”, “Ballad Of El Dorado”, “Bon Voyage”, “What’s The Use”,“Make Our Garden Grow”

Hits include The Overture, “Glitter And Be Gay”, though “Life Is Happiness Indeed” is, I believe, the strongest number in the show, so far as theater goes.


As always, you may elect to skip or ignore my opinions and rating. But if you do, we’ll quickly find out whether or not this is the best of all possible worlds, and life is happiness, indeed…

Seldom have so many gifted writers labored for so long on a single project to such frustrating results. Candide is for me, and these are my opinions, now, a very mixed bag. I’ve always thought that it’s first 15-20 minutes, used to introduce characters and lacking any remarkable action, were the strongest in the show. This especially became true with the addition of Mr. Sondheim’s lyrics for “Life Is Happiness, Indeed.”. The show rises to life again in various places, such as for the magnificent “Glitter And Be Gay.” But I have to admit I find quite a bit of the show, particularly in longer versions, something of an overwrought bore.

This is a show where, so far as production values go, less is going to be more. The show is already top heavy, nearly sinking in music of unequal stature. (I know, that’s a sin when speaking of Mr. Bernstein’s accomplishment. My opinion, here.) One of the most beloved numbers in the show is the last one, “Make Our Garden Grow”, and I cannot wait for it to end.

As the 2004 concert production proved, the show can be real fun. It didn’t hurt that the near-perfect Kristin Chenowith was on stage, as was the remarkable Patti Lupone. It also didn’t hurt that there was almost no movement, forcing the attention to the music, the lyrics, the story, the actors. There were gags that mostly were okay and occasionally funny, and it was certainly enjoyable to watch…most of it.

In the end, I don’t think I’m a Bernstein fan when it comes to Musical Theatre. His skills as a musician are obviously beyond question. But I find much of his theater music overblown and overwrought. And then, strangely, some of his pieces grow too restive for my theatrical tastes. Nothing is more boring than a number about boredom that is slow and tedious and…um, boring. I find much of the last part of this show is exactly that.

This is a show about a quest to discover one’s own life. In that sense, and given the ’74 version as more-or-less the best theatrical version, it shares some similarities with Pippin, and oddly enough, The Fantasticks. In Pippin, a young medieval man goes out into the world to discover himself. That show, like Candide, suffers from a very uneven score, and much tedium, relieved in the original production by the showbiz genius and flash of Bob Fosse. In The Fantasticks, Matt runs away from Luisa to have the world beat the s**t out of him. In both Candide and Pippin, the hero learns a lesson of compromise, and it takes hours. In The Fantasticks, Matt learns that what he left behind was what he most needs, and he learns it in the course of a single terrific number.

I’ll take The Fantasticks every time over either of these other admittedly interesting shows. And it’s far easier to produce.

This show presents some interesting dilemmas for a Producer. If yours is an opera company, then you know what’s expected. Real sets., big period costuming, even a dancing chorus – enormous production values. You would probably also be expected to do Mr. Bernstein’s final approved version, intended to be an opera, from the late 80s. The show has been presented fully produced, both on Broadway and in opera houses, in much the manner described. It is an opera.

But it’s a Broadway opera. It’s supposed to function well, accordingly, as theater. For that to happen, I believe focus must be drawn to the story, the characters, to Voltaire’s contribution to the evening, as well as to the performers and direction. And attention should be moved away from sets, big costumes, and dance choruses.

So you’ll need to decide on an approach, as well as a version of the show, out of the many available. And your decision will largely be guided, most likely, by the nature of your theater company and the sort of production you want to do. And budget.

As Broadway opera, there are, I believe, other interesting shows to consider, such as Street Scene, The Rise And Fall Of The City Of Mahagonny, The Most Happy Fella, and The Cradle Will Rock. Even Porgy & Bess, which I do not love, is a viable alternative to Candide. But Candide is a comic opera, and as such only The Most Happy Fella, and The Cradle Will Rock are comparable. I think the other two scores are more interesting. (I know – an unpardonable sin.) And I think The Cradle Will Rock is as entertaining. But Candide is more comic than either of those shows. Parts of it, anyway.

I think some of my disappointment for this show comes from the glory of its first 20 minutes, with music so grand and vital and musical, it has few equals in the repertoire. The rest of the show is a let-down.

The ’04 version demonstrated that it can be produced in very minimal circumstances (um, except for a nice, enormous symphony orchestra…), rendering Candide more accessible and produceable. (The recommended orchestration it 13 from MTI. Could even be done with one or two great pianists…) The show is an enormous musical and vocal challenge, which will appeal to certain groups. It appears that nearly everyone who ever wrote a play or musical worked on the writing of this one, a good or bad thing depending on your view of whether the show has improved from the original ’56 version, I suppose. (I think so.) And any Musical that Kristin Chenowith wants to do is fine by me.

A final word – Voltaire is one of the most important writers in history, a philosopher and comic genius whose works speak to us still, as this show attests to. If you want to do this show, at least read the great man’s short novel of the same name. (Here’s what he looked like, both pieces created by the greatest sculptor in history, in my opinion, Houdon. Go to the Los Angeles museum and look at the piece to the right – you’ll feel like you’re in the great man’s presence!)

MY RATING: * (A better-than-average and interesting show, right for many groups.)



It’s Bernstein, it’s essentially an opera, and it’s very hard to sing. This is a show for trained voices – trained in opera and classical music. It is also a show that should only be Musical Directed by the most experienced and skilled musician. The music itself is quite difficult to play, and harder to teach. The orchestra must be very pro, very tight. So must the singers. Requires an M.D. with a classical and theatrical background who knows how to work with trained and untrained voices. One of the hardest Musical Direction jobs around. If you haven’t the right person for this job, you simply can’t do this show.

Cast people who read music, if at all possible.

Candide – Classically-trained tenor. Requires beautiful mid-register control, and good emotional expression.

Cunedganda – Classically-trained soprano. Fantastic strength in mid-range and upper register. Very controlled voice. Good emotional expression.

Dr. Pangloss/Dr. Voltaire – Lyric baritone, character-driven voice, actor first, singer second.

The Old Lady – Mezzo, good belt, terrific acting role for a strong theatrical singer with a fair-sized range.

Maximilian – Baritone, strong mid and upper ranges.

Paquette – Soprano.

Baron – Spoken role. (Can double in ensemble.)

Baroness – Spoken role. (Can double in ensemble)

Ensemble – MUST sing very well, preferably classically trained. If fully staging the show, must move well, too. Good luck with that.


This is an operetta, almost an opera. It contains some choreographic chores, but generally should be staged by the Director. And clearly casting will focus on everything other than dance.

There are some numbers that may need a Choreographer’s touch, including “Life Is Happiness Indeed”, “The Best Of All Possible Worlds”, “Oh, Happy We”,“Auto Da Fay”, “I’m Easily Assimilated”, “Quartet Finale”, “Barcarolle (Upon A Ship At Sea”), “We Are Women”, “Alleluia”, and “Quiet – The Sheep’s Song”. In almost every case, movement would swirl about the lead singer doing the singing. They need to sing.

Just a few thoughts. “Life Is Happiness Indeed”, “The Best Of All possible worlds” and “Oh Happy We” are all mock-operetta in the French school of comic and overly precious. Lots of posing, some simple movement, nothing too tough.

“Auto da fay” is a chance to get some movement and action into the show, if you’re not concertizing. Nothing more entertaining than watching heretics burn, I always say. This will be built around a special effect or two (one would hope), and movement by the ensemble in celebration of the happy day. They must sing, however, and they won’t be dancers, most likely.

“I’m Easily Assimilated” is a comic number for the Old Lady, and should remain focused always on her. Don’ get carried away.

“The Sheep’s Song” is SUCH A BORE! If you stage it at all, for heaven’s sake find something amusing to do with this! Work with your Director and conceptualize an entertaining way to present mediocrity and boredom. Left to their own values, they’re, um, boring.

Really not much of a show for a Choreographer. A Director with some experience with dance and good ideas should be able to easily do the show without help.


Candide – Late teens-30 or so. The Baron and baroness’ nephew. The ingenue lead. Gullible, wide-eyed, ever the optimist. A handsome lad with decent energy. Often played as a bit of a cipher who survives as the world slams into him over and over. I do find that approach rather dull, though. I’d like it better if Candide actually made an effort to understand and control his world, and wasn’t quite the dullard he seems to be. Cast for voice, type, acting, a little movement if you’re staging the show.

Cunedganda – A few years Candide’s junior. Gorgeous, attractive, even sexy, pampered and spoiled beyond words. Almost always played as a blonde. She is faithful to Candide, in a manner of speaking. Must cast a very funny actress who sings like a Goddess. Cast for voice, type, acting, some movement. A star role.

Dr. Pangloss/Dr. Voltaire – Anywhere from 30-50s. (He was about 65 years old when he wrote Candide.) Voltaire is the all-knowing narrator of our tale, of course. As Panglos, he is the children’s teacher and a real idiot when it comes to the ways of the world. His optimistically blind philosophy of life nearly gets everyone killed. Cast for acting, type, voice, some movement.

The Old Lady – In her 60s-70s, once beautiful, now old and hideous. Another inept guide and teacher for Candide and Cuneganda. Cast for acting, voice, comic ability, type, movement. A star.

Maximilian – Early 20s. Cuneganda’s brother. Arrogant, vain to comic lengths, very handsome. Cast for type, voice, acting, some movement.

Paquette – Late teens-20s. Very attractive, sexy young woman, with a good heart. Cast for type, voice, acting, some movement.

Baron – 50s-60s. A stuffy nobleman, a womanizer. Cast for type, acting. (Can double in the ensemble.)

Baroness – About the Baron’s age. His wife. Cast for type, acting.

Ensemble – They will need real energy to get through this show, especially if fully produced instead on presented as a concert. If so, they will need to move well, some will need to dance. All will need strong, classically-trained voices, pretty much. They will need to do some acting.


Depends on your approach. Fully staged, you’ll be building numerous lush sets. The palatial home they start out ion. Ships at sea. Dank prisons. Whore houses. All these and numerous more, all in the period. It will be very expensive, very complex, and require a masterful Designer.

You could meet these demands half way, which I’d recommend for a theater approach – if you’re not doing a concert. Start with a bare stage, and fly in or carry in or roll in nothing but partial sets. Banners, flags, some furniture for palatial surroundings. Barrels and a sail for a ship. A set of bars and lowered lighting for a prison. Nothing remotely presentational, keep it all representational – or your production will become overweight and will drag with tech needs and set changes in performance. And this show needs to move rapidly, trust me.

If you go this route, consider using colors and even fabrics indicative of the period for flags, banners, and ship’s sails. Things should be bright and fun, the show needs the energy…but not overwhelming to the eye.

Then there’s the concert version. The ’04 version placed the cast on something like bleachers, three rows I believe, facing the audience, with playing space in front. Occasional banners or flags or suggestive pieces were flown in from the rafters. But it was all very simple and inexpensive, and it worked just fine.

Voltaire’s book is a journey of the mind. Yes, it voluptuous, filled with distant lands and sexual encounters – that’s why it appeals as an opera, in part. But it also works on a bare stage, perhaps better, allowing the audience to (to use Tom Jones of The Fantastick’s fame word) imagineer the sets. (I think Disney co-opted this word at a later date…) This show can be distancing. The music is already somewhat overwhelming, and the story is globe-trotting madness. To produce on top of all those sets that will bludgeon with color and richness is to produce not just an embarrassment of riches, in my opinion, but a show that won’t work anywhere. And that leaves a conundrum for opera companies. Hey, the Met, you don’t have to have ridiculous sets! Puccini will still sound great.

I personally believe that less is far more in the case of the sets for this show. But unless you’re concertizing, you will need a very fine and capable and creative set designer, even for the cut-away and partial-set concept.


Even the concert version used limited, suggestive costuming. Seems like a good idea, given how many characters eventually get presented in this show (a lot). Costuming should be in period. It should always reflect and make easier to remember the character. That will be the costumer’s assignment, along with making sure every costume can easily be breathed in, given the signing chores in this show.

Candide himself is usually dressed simply, as almost a workman. Cuneganda and Maximilian dress very ornately, as befits their extraordinary vanity. The good teacher Pangloss dresses in relative plainness and obscurity, as befits the sad truth that he’d be best left in obscurity. Whores dress like whores for the period and location. Etc. Many items could be added to a base costume, especially for ensemble members, such as shawls, hats, gloves, you name it, to indicate changing locations and characteristics. But this should all be kept simple.

Most items will need to be rented or built. You’ll want an experienced Costumer. Your Costume Designer should work closely with the Set Designer, Lighting Designer and Director, and start their work early in the process. You’ll need someone experienced.


This is likely to change dramatically, depending on the approach taken. You’ll want to have an experienced Prop Master for anything other than a concert version. Props will need to reflect other design elements, and be in period. There may be many.


The simpler the presentation gets, the more important lighting becomes. Except in a concert version, where you might just flip the stage lights on and walk away.

But generally, given either the richness of sets and costumes, or the simplicity and even scarcity of them, the lighting will need to do some heavy lifting.

A fully designed production is just that, and the completeness of design will include lush lighting with moody, saturated colors, dark shadows for prisons and whore houses, and bight happy lighting for the first 20 minutes of the show.

A cut-away design will need help from the lighting to focus attention on the part of the stage where action will be taking place, as well as to generate moods.

Anything outside of a concert is likely to have a lot of cues, and use a complex plot. You’ll want an experienced and capable Lighting Designer for those kinds of productions.


The Old Lady could be fun, with a big putty nose and moles and rotting teeth and what have you. Or you could just let the actress do her job, depending on the kind of production you’re doing.

Panglos/Voltaire must appear benign, distinguished, a credible teacher but aged.

Cuneganda and Candide, as well as Maximilian, should be beautiful to look at.

KEY PERSONNEL (The ones you MUST get right.):

Director, Musical Director, Set Designer (IF you use sets, which you probably should not), Costume Designer, Lighting Designer, Candide, Cuneganda, Pangloss

No two productions of Candide will be alike. This is in part because there are so many versions of the show floating around. It is also in part because the approach a Producer and his crew takes, from fully produced opera to cutaway theater production to concert version, will largely determine what your production will be like. And finally, the quality of musicians available to you, the size of your orchestra, and the caliber of your singing actors, will further determine the look and feel of your production.

This is probably a good thing. Every production, then, provides an opportunity to discover a better way to do this show. It has many promising pieces in it, and some beautiful music, obviously. It gets produced fairly often as it is, and should not date from its music (as West side Story has, the other piece Bernstein composed at exactly the same time he did Candide.) It’s likely to have a long and interesting life as a show. Perhaps your production will be the one that blows this promising piece through the roof?