Lauren Molina and Geoff Packard Are Optimists of Goodman Candide Beginning Sept. 17

News   Lauren Molina and Geoff Packard Are Optimists of Goodman Candide Beginning Sept. 17
A new "best of all possible worlds" reveals itself at the Goodman Theatre on Sept. 17 with the first performance of a revised version of Leonard Bernstein's musical, Candide, with a libretto freshened by Tony Award-winning director Mary Zimmerman.

Lauren Molina and Geoff Packard in rehearsal
Lauren Molina and Geoff Packard in rehearsal Photo by Liz Lauren

The musical inspired by Voltaire's satiric novel about blind optimism features Geoff Packard (Broadway's Rock of Ages, The Phantom of the Opera) in the title role of Candide; Lauren Molina (of Broadway's Rock of Ages and the recent Sweeney Todd) as his love, Cunegonde; Chicago's Larry Yando as Pangloss, Candide's tutor; Hollis Resnick (the Chicago star who toured as Mrs. Meers in Thoroughly Modern Millie and had recent regional success in Grey Gardens) as the Old Lady; Chicago's Jonathan Weir as the Governor; Erik Lochtefeld (Metapmorphoses) as Maximillian; Margo Seibert as Paquette; Jesse Perez as Cacambo; and Tom Aulino as Martin. Ensemble members include Spencer Curnutt, Rebecca Finnegan, Govind Kumar, Rob Lindley, Tracy Lynn Olivera, Emma Rosenthal, Thomas Adrian Simpson, Joey Stone, Tempe Thomas and Joseph Tokarz.

Zimmerman — who won the Best Direction Tony Award for her nationally-seen Metamorphoses — has dipped into the source novel to further flavor the production. The musical that blurs the line between musical comedy and comic opera includes such songs as "Glitter and Be Gay," "Life Is Happiness Indeed," "Make Our Garden Grow," "The Best of All Possible Worlds" and many more, to say nothing of its famous overture. The musical bowed on Broadway in 1956. Following rewrites, it found renewed life back on Broadway (twice), in regional theatres and in opera houses around the world.

Performances will play Chicago's Goodman to Oct. 31 (representing a one-week extension) in the Albert Theatre. Candide is a co-production between Goodman and The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC, which will present the staging following the Chicago run.

The Goodman production features an orchestra of 12. Doug Peck is the music director.

Candide has music by Leonard Bernstein, a book adapted from Voltaire by Hugh Wheeler, lyrics by Richard Wilbur, and additional lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, John Latouche, Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker and Leonard Bernstein. Zimmerman's Candide, she told Playbill magazine, will be different from other Candides: "I went to Bernstein's estate and got permission to do a new version, a new adaptation. I know how many people have done it, but there's a bit of room for invention and creation."

For example, she says, there's a scene in the novel that does not appear in most major adaptations (though it was in the Royal National Theatre's). Zimmerman explained, "It's more than midway through, when Candide runs across a slave who works in the sugar mills in Suriname who has had a hand and leg cut off. Candide asks how he lost the hand and leg, and the slave says that when someone catches a hand in the machinery it's much faster to cut it off. When a slave tries to run away a leg is cut off so he is slower. This is how the price of sugar is kept lower in Europe. And Candide says he is no longer an optimist. He says that clearly everything is not for the best. It's a turning point in the novel."

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The Goodman has also announced three special events connected with the production. On Sept. 24, a "Glitter and Be Gay" night will allow Chicago's LGBT community the chance to attend a pre-show reception (6-7:30 PM) with music director Doug Peck and cast members. Peck will discuss his work on the show and offer audience members a sneak peek at the music before the 8 PM performance begins. Tickets are $75 (including reception and performance).

Sept. 29, the Goodman will host an Artists Talk pre-show discussion (6-7 PM), featuring author and theatre critic Jonathan Abarbanel, music director Peck, and cast members Geoff Packard (Candide), Lauren Molina (Cunegonde) and Hollis Resnik (Old Lady). Tickets to the event are $10 ($5 for subscribers and students).

Cast members will perform music from the show Oct. 4 at 7:30 PM as part of the "Monday Night Live" series at Petterino's (150 North Dearborn Street), a restaurant in the heart of Chicago's theatre district. A $15 minimum is required; reservations are recommended. Call (312) 422-0150.

Lauren Molina rehearses "Glitter And Be Gay"
Lauren Molina rehearses "Glitter And Be Gay" Photo by Liz Lauren
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