The Broadway revival of Leonard Bernstein's musical, Candide, opened April 29 at the Gershwin Theatre and star Jim Dale, Andrea Martin, Harolyn Blackwell, Arte Johnson and Mal Z. Lawrence, all under Harold Prince's direction.
Produced by Livent Inc., the company behind Show Boat and Kiss of the Spider Woman, this revival will hew fairly closely the one Prince staged at New York City Opera, based on his 1974 revival, which dispensed with Lillian Hellman's 1956 book. The "new" version has a book by Hugh Wheeler (A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd). Lyrics are by Richard Wilbur, with additional lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and John LaTouche.
According to production spokesperson Mary Bryant, Sondheim is currently working on new lyrics for at least one song in the show. Charlie Harmon, music editor for the estate of Leonard Bernstein, laughed when asked how this Candide will differ from other productions: "A fellow just wrote a 300 page, PhD thesis written about that -- in German! The last major production in NY was City Opera in 1982, and this production is based on that, certainly."
Asked for a few specific changes, Harmon said, "There are two new bits, currently labeled `The Old Lady's False Entrance I and II' with 8-bars of new lyrics by Sondheim. They're to the music of `Life Is Happiness Indeed.' (I can't give those lyrics out till after the show has opened; they're not written in stone yet.) Those parts don't necessarily stand out, but If people have seen Candide before, they might say, `I don't remember the old lady coming in this soon...'"
. Another major difference between the NYCOP and current version has to do with orchestration. Said Harmon, "This is the first time since 1956 that the full orchestration has been used in a Broadway theatre. That's of major importance, because the current trend is to cut down orchestrations or revamp them or add synthesizers. This has no synthesizer. It's really quite glorious." The auto da fe scene is shorter," Harmon continued, "which is good. Also, since Mr. Bernstein looked at Candide in 1989 for the Deutsche Grammophone recording, he put his final intentions on the work and took care of all the details. The material here reflects those final intentions, where they were applicable. For instance, at the very end of `Glitter And Be Gay,' Bernstein changed the rhythm of the ending chords. In 1989 he had just conducted Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony, and mentioned to me, `You know, Tchaikovsky really knew how to end things.' He felt helped by that. Ironically, at that point in the song, people are already up on their feet clapping and screaming, so they don't hear it. Still, that sort of revision is true pretty much throughout the piece. The older wiser conductor making improvements."
Candide-ophiles will want to check out the official Leonard Bernstein website -- http://www.leonardbernstein.com -- which offers archival photos and texts on the making of the musical. Among the treasures -- diary entries by Hal Prince and pages of the original sheet music. Ironically, Leonard Bernstein's calendar entry for the opening night of Candide mentions only a Young People's Concert to be conducted earlier that afternoon.
"What I did for the Bernstein homepage," said Harmon, "was to make up a bare-bones outline of how the piece evolved from 1956 to the present production. I tacked on at the end eight pages of appendices that give the cast & running orders of all the major productions. In charge of the Bernstein Estate's creative affairs, by the way, is a company called Amberson Inc. "The word for amber in German is `Bernstein," said Harmon. So Amberson means "son of Bernstein."
As for the cast of Candide, Dale, who will play Pangloss, won the 1980 Tony Award as Best Actor in a Musical, for Barnum. Martin, who will play the Old Lady, won the 1991 Tony Award at Best Featured Actress in My Favorite Year. She's also known for her work on the "SCTV" TV comedy series and her recent one-woman, autobiographical show, Nude, Nude, Totally Nude.
The operatically trained Blackwell (Cunegonde) sang "Green Finch and Linnet Bird" on the Stephen Sondheim Celebration at Carnegie Hall album, and has released a CD of Maury Yeston songs. Bryant told Playbill On-Line that Blackwell, who is African-American, may even play the role in an 18th century version of an afro hairstyle. At certain performances, Glenda Balkan will sub for Blackwell as Cunegonde.
The title character will be played by Jason Danieley, late of off Broadway's Floyd Collins. Also in the cast are Brent Barrett (Maximilian), Stacey Logan (Paquette), Catskills On Broadway funnyman Mal Z. Lawrence and "Laugh In's" very interesting Arte Johnson.
Patricia Birch choreographs the show, which will utilize orchestrations by Bernstein and Hershy Kay. Designers are Clarke Dunham (set), Judith Anne Dolan (costumes) and Ken Billington (lighting).
Voltaire's 1759 satire traces "the marvelous adventures and tribulations of Candide, who faces great hardships but stays loyal to the optimistic lessons of his teacher, Dr. Pangloss. Through war, famine, earthquakes, shipwrecks and other disasters, Candide maintains that `all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.'"
The Gershwin's Theatre's previous tenant, Drabinsky's Show Boat, closed in January. Nina Bernstein, daughter of the composer, told Playbill On-Line, "Every time you do a production, it has to conform to the size of the theatre. In this case, the Gershwin is enormous. You want to keep the number of instruments relatively small, yet they need to be heard So we have to some amplification of the instruments, as well as the voices."
Bernstein has been helping Livent do research on the piece for the show's souvenir booklet. She added, "Charlie Harmon, our vice president in publishing matters, is working with the director on getting the musical parts correct. What's fun about seeing Candide is that you never know what you're gonna get -- unlike West Side Story where you can sing along with the book at this point. Every Candide is a bit of a crapshoot. The book changes, additional lyrics get written. There's even a question as to what order will the numbers appear in, and will whole scenes be dropped? For example, the infanta in the auto da fe scene was dropped when Wheeler's book replaced the original Hellman book, but the infanta reappeared at the recent Arena Stage production. Like the hero, the show itself has gone on a journey to find its form and function -- and it may never find it. It may just enjoy the journey."
Tickets ($20-$70) for Candide can be purchased by calling (212) 307-4100. Outside NY metro area: (800) 755-4000.