Review "Candide": Zimmerman's Amazing Race Is An Optimistic Blur!

Goodman Theatre presents

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At 170 N. Dearborn
Based on the novella by François-Marie Arouet aka Voltaire
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Book adapted from Voltaire by Hugh Wheeler
Lyrics by Richard Wilbur
Additional lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, John Latouche, Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker
and Leonard Bernstein
Musically directed by Doug Peck
Directed and newly adapted from Voltaire by Mary Zimmerman
Thru October 24th
Buy Tickets
Running time:  Three hours includes a fifteen minute intermission

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

War, earthquake, shipwreck, prison, prostitution, a young man’s optimism is challenged on his seemingly never-ending quest to be with his betrothed.   Goodman Theatre presents CANDIDE, the comedy operetta by Leonard Bernstein and newly adapted from Voltaire by Mary Zimmerman.  Candide is tutored by Pangloss with the philosophy that ‘all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.’  When he falls for Cunegonde, his guardian’s daughter, Candide is thrown out into the world to test his mentor’s theory.  A ‘chain of astonishing calamities’ afflicts the innocent Candide and chips away at his resolve to positively accept life happenings.  CANDIDE is an-all-over-the-map satire as the hero sails, flies, walks a fantastical journey to find himself.  It’s a once in a lifetime trip with a jam-packed itinerary. CANDIDE will leave you exhausted but satisfied with blurry recollections of everything you saw. 

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Director Mary Zimmerman navigates the expedition with a comprehensive strategy to experience all of Voltaire.  It’s a fast-paced, sensory overload with a nineteen-member cast, a multi-functional set and a lively musical score.  Cast members rotate tour guide responsibilities with a ‘you are here’ GPS-worthy narration interspersed on the obstacle course.    In the lead, Geoff Packard (Candide) is simply charming… emphasis on simply.  Packard is irresistible as the childlike hero.  In the initial ‘Oh Happy, We’ duet with Laura Molina (Cunegonde), Packard’s naiveté in love and women is introduced with ‘you’re too good for her’ amusement.  Packard’s over-the-top love for Molina’s hilarious diva adds to the farce.  Molina goes for the joke with soprano emphasis on the high notes.  The chemistry between her and Hollis Resnik (the old lady) is a tight ‘We Are Women’ bonding.  Resnik is hilarious as a half-buttock survivor of her own misfortune.  Her ‘I Am Easily Assimilated’ musical number is easily one of the best songs in the show.  The talented cast dons wigs, costumes and identities to cover the gamut of characters.  A standout is Rebecca Finnegan triumphing in scamming the hero with an animated ‘Bon Voyage’ rendition.   The guys perfect for entertaining on a long road trip, Larry Yando (Pangloss) and Erik Lochtefeld (Maximillan) bring Big Gulps of buffoonery to quench the occasional dry spells.         

Zimmerman’s CANDIDE is an around-the-world-in-three-hours hot mess.  So much to see! 

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Where to look?  The visual spectacle is non-stop as the stories within stories become scene filled activities.  The complicated story goes port to port leaving in its wake a string of exotic picturesque postcard memories.  In the back-to-reality day after a huge trip, I reminisce the memorable moments of the extensive expedition:     a five minute showstopper scene about theatre, a tossed bucket of excrement, red sheep,  musical chairs movement, Doug Peck conducting and a ‘we must cultivate our garden’ philosophy.  

Production photos courtesy of Liz Lauren.

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