Theater Reviews

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New York State Theater at Lincoln Center
Through Sunday

The musical version of Voltaire's "Candide" has had many lives over the years since its ill-fated 1956 premiere, but its current version seems to have settled in nicely as an operatic staple. This certainly is the case with this production being presented by the New York City Opera that was adapted by Harold Prince in 1982 from his own Broadway staging of a decade earlier.

Featuring a book by Hugh Wheeler and lyrics by Richard Wilbur (with additional contributions from composer Leonard Bernstein, John LaTouche and Stephen Sondheim), this "Candide" occasionally suffers from an overblown, antic quality that detracts from its simple appeal. But whatever the limitations of its trappings, Bernstein's score -- containing such classics as "Glitter and Be Gay," "The Best of All Possible Worlds" and the soaring "Make Our Garden Grow" -- remains a model of gorgeous melodicism.

This extended engagement, finishing out the City Opera's season, has a distinct Broadway atmosphere, with many of the major roles filled by theater performers. They include Daniel Reichard ("Jersey Boys") in the title role; comedy veteran Richard Kind as Voltaire, Dr. Pangloss and numerous others; and Judith Blazer ("Sweeney Todd") as the Old Lady.

Arthur Masella has re-created Prince's staging in effective fashion, and the many crowd-pleasing touches remain in effect. Performed on a sprawling, carnival-like setting, the production literally spills out into the audience, with the actors sometimes singing their numbers from the rows of the orchestra or the side balconies.

The jokey book ultimately is more wearisome than amusing, but the fast pacing assures that not too much time lapses between the stirring musical numbers.

The fresh-faced Reichard is highly appealing as the innocent Candide, delivering his songs in a sweet tenor voice and handling his comedic chores with energetic enthusiasm. Lauren Worsham's Cunegode is equally amusing, and her vocal prowess is proven by her fine handling of the fiendishly high-noted "Glitter and Be Gay." The supporting roles are generally well handled, though Kind, while delivering the requisite laughs, is clearly out of his depth when it comes to the vocal demands of his multiple roles.

CANDIDE
Presented by the New York City Opera
Credits:
Music: Leonard Bernstein
Book: Hugh Wheeler
Lyrics: Richard Wilbur
Additional lyrics: Leonard Bernstein, John LaTouche, Stephen Sondheim
Production: Harold Prince
Stage director: Arthur Masella
Choreographer: Patricia Birch
Set designer: Clarke Dunham
Costume designer: Judith Dolan
Lighting designer: Ken Billington
Sound designer: Abe Jacob
Cast:
Candide: Daniel Reichard
Voltaire/Dr. Pangloss, others: Richard Kind
Cunegonde: Lauren Worsham
Paquette: Jessica Wright
Maximilian: Kyle Pfortmiller
Old Lady: Judith Blazer
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