The new take draws more heavily on elements from the 1759 Voltaire novel and includes recent tweaks by lyricists Stephen Sondheim and Richard Wilbur.
Casting was announced Aug. 4. Philly star Ben Dibble, most recently seen at the Arden as Lee Harvey Oswald in Assassins and as Anthony Hope in Sweeney Todd, will play the naive title character, whose picaresque adventures were first penned by novelist Voltaire.
Music is by Bernstein. The libretto is adapted from Voltaire by Hugh Wheeler "in a new version by John Caird," with lyrics by Richard Wilbur, and additional lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, John Latouche, Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker and Leonard Bernstein.
Arden artistic director Terrence J. Nolen directs. Opening is Sept. 17. Performances continue to Oct. 12 on Arden's F. Otto Haas Stage, 40 N. 2nd Street, Old City Philadelphia.
Director Nolen has long wanted to stage Candide "but has been dissatisfied with the libretto because of its vast departure from Voltaire's original work," according to Arden notes. "In 1999, British dramatist John Caird prepared a significant reworking of Candide for the Royal National Theatre. Songs were reordered, characters more fully developed, and, most importantly, Caird returned to Voltaire's novel. The Arden's production will mark the premiere of the musical in an American regional theatre." Nolen said in a statement, "I am extremely excited by this new version of Candide. It is funny, insightful, compelling and, because John returned to Voltaire's original novel, quite different from all previous versions."
Caird co-directed (and had a hand in adapting) the original productions of Nicholas Nickleby and Les Miserables.
Nolen added, "I have a great passion for musical theatre and an ongoing interest in adapting literature for the stage, so working with John on this most remarkable musical has been an extraordinary opportunity."
"I am thrilled that the Arden is doing my version of Bernstein's Candide," stated Caird. "I had a wonderful time preparing it for the National Theatre in Britain, going back to the original novel and relishing Voltaire's extraordinary wit and human insight. Stephen Sondheim and Richard Wilbur helped me with new lyrics for critical moments in the libretto and the resulting show proved to be an enormous success with actors and audience alike."
Candide is a classic coming-of-age story about a young man's journey from innocence to experience. It's adapted from Voltaire's satiric novel, which pokes sex, love, youth, politics, religion and philosophy in the eye.
"Lush and elegant," according to Arden, "it urges the audience to do what a satire hopes its audience will do: in the face of all that is wrong with the world, struggle to improve it."
The cast will also include Joel T. Bauer as Maximillian, Erin Driscoll as Paquette, Liz Filios as Cunégonde, Nick Gaswirth as Vanderdendur, Scott Greer as Voltaire/Dr. Pangloss, Mary Martello as The Old Woman, Christopher Patrick Mullen as Martin and Richard Ruiz as Cacambo with Mat Burrow, Jeffrey Coon, Matthew Ferraro, Jessica Gruver, Darren Michael Hengst, Gabrielle Hurtt, Melissa Kolczynski, Kristin Purcell, Marian Sunnergren, Sorab Wadia and Heather Woodward.
The creative team includes James Kronzer (set designer), Justin Townsend (lighting designer), Rosemarie E. McKelvey (costume designer), Jorge Cousineau (sound designer), Kate Hanley (stage manager), Matthew Decker (assistant director) and Jacqueline Goldfinger (dramaturg).
The production will also feature an 11-piece orchestra led by Eric Ebbenga (Arden's Caroline, or Change and Sweeney Todd).
This year marks the 90th anniversary of composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein's birth. His Broadway scores include Wonderful Town, On the Town, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and West Side Story, as well as a version of Peter Pan.
This Candide was made possible in part by a grant from the Philadelphia Theatre Initiative, a program of the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and administered by The University of the Arts, plus the National Endowment for the Arts as part of American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius.
For more information call the Arden box office at (215) 922-1122 or visit www.ardentheatre.org.