Candide is my favourite musical. Based on Voltaire’s wonderful send up of religion, philosophy, and love, and driven by the ebullience and sheer genius of Leonard Bernstein’s music, Candide is delight. Though I am not a music specialist, I know that almost every tune in this musical has been stolen or covered. This production reminds me how much excitement and theatricality can be experienced in an academic presentation (directed by Patrick Hanson and McGill Chamber Orchestra artistic director and conductor Boris Brott). The sheer number of performers is amazing. I am starving for the profusion of performers on the set, and that is with Eric Epp playing four separate and distinct roles, brilliantly.
The set by Vincent Lefevre is simple and perfect. It looks like a forest, but the bark of the different trees is covered in writing. When Serge Filatrault’s lights hit the trees, they transform into something magical. The costumes by Ginette Grenier are genuinely silly and appropriate, and Florence Cornet does lovely things with hair and make up.
The Old Lady played by James Brown is not able to project either singing or speaking, and that is unfortunate, because the character’s accent screams for real projection. Olivia Barnes plays a great Paquette with all the comic timing to make it really work. Candide is terrific in the comedy although his solo singing is a bit uncertain.
This entire evening is dominated by the magical talent of Gina Hanzlik. As Cunegonde, she takes the stage with her first lines, and sings like an professional. Her comedic timing and extraordinary voice gives the show the energy and pizzazz that it needs. It feels like a privilege to be listening to someone of her remarkable talent.
If you have never seen this play or listened to the music, this is a terrific opportunity to experience one of the all time great musicals of the last century. This is being staged as a celebration of Bernstein’s hundredth birthday.
Candide is playing at Pollack Hall 555 Sherbrooke West on March 23, 24 and 25.