Candide @ Church Hill Theatre
Leonard Bernstein brought to life Voltaire’s magnum opus, a witty satire lampooning the philosophy of Leibnitz, who posited that since God was perfect, it naturally followed that the world he created must be the best of all possible worlds. According to this ideology, while we cannot always tell why shitty things happen (not a direct quote), we can comfortably conclude that if any given bad thing didn’t happen, something even worse would happen instead.
Makes sense, or at least it is made to make sense in the hilarious song The Best of all Possible Worlds.
Somehow these complex themes are made accessible, even to those unfamiliar with the source material, in this flowing staging, set to a piano reduction of the orchestral score. The bright-faced Candide goes through trial after tribulation, having his kindly nature and faith stretched to the extreme of incredulity as he tries to maintain his integrity in a best-of-all-possible-worlds that just seems to get worse and worse. At one climatic moment, seeing those around him slaughter each other the key line is declared, “God’s image? Maybe this is God’s image.” Harrowing.
The story takes a pop at bigotry and divisive religiosity in every form. No one is safe: from Christian inquisitors, to Jewish money lenders, to the Jesuits, and countless nationalities, each is charged with war-making, intolerance and above all, hypocrisy. Despite the mature themes, and the show can get pretty raunchy at times, this youthful cast from Trinity Preparatory School, Florida, pull this little number off a treat. The young cast in fact set the stage particularly well in early scenes depicting children under the instruction of Dr. Pangloss (a lecherous satirisation of Leibnitz.)
The colourful set and costumes are attractive, although sometimes the use of invisible props seems out of keeping. The direction makes lovely use of the space and each member of the main cast contributes something great to the piece. Leading lady, Cunegonde, (Kathryn Kilger) has a beautifully mature silken soprano voice which reaches high, The Old Lady (Olivia can den Berg) shows off her dancing skills when she plays the role of courtesan, to raise some money and further their quest. Riley Suter shows great diversity and charm in his role as Pangloss, Voltaire (as narrator) and other cameo roles through the piece and Dana Kruger, as the lascivious Paquette gives quite the beguiling performance.