This was my second experience with Candide, having seen Skylark Opera's production a few years ago. But even if you're not familiar with it, you would likely recognize some of the music (particularly the luscious Overture), so well known and oft performed it is. I'm not going to get into the epic plot twists and turns here; suffice it to say we follow the journey of a young man named Candide from youthful optimism through the most horrible things a person could endure, arriving at a place of contentment. And it's a comedy. The ridiculousness of the plot (people dying and coming back to life, fantasy worlds filled with gold) is perfectly suited to this radio play, as the narrator (the divine Bradley Greenwald, who I wish would narrate everything always) leads us through it and glosses over a few things, with a wink to the audience. He and the cast also create all sorts of sound effects, eliminating the need to have all of the fantastical things mentioned appear on stage, while going one step beyond a simple reading. The intrepid "Gofer" Andrew Alness manages all of the sound effects paraphernalia smoothly; Bradley puts out his hand and the appropriate sound effects tool is there. It's fun to watch, but also tempting to close one's eyes to get the full effect of imagination the sounds create.
|the cast, singers, and musicians of Candide (photo by Bruce Silcox)|
As per usual with a Peter Rothstein-directed piece, I find myself understanding it and connecting to it more than I have before. The ending brought tears to my eyes not just through the beauty of the music, but through the beauty of the message. This is definitely not the best of all possible worlds, nor is it the worst of all possible worlds. It's just the world that is. And none of us are pure and wise and good all of the time. We do our best to plant and cultivate the seeds we want to grow in our life. A wonderful message for this time of year, and for this time in our world.
Let dreamers dream
What worlds they please
Those Edens can't be found.
The sweetest flowers,
The fairest trees
Are grown in solid ground.
We're neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We'll do the best we know.
We'll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow.
And make our garden grow!