Review: CANDIDE at Palais Theatre

4.5 Stars - Victorian Opera’s presentation of Leonard Bernstein’s Broadway Operetta, Candide, is full of buoyantly satirical fun and colourful characters.

By: Feb. 11, 2024
Review: CANDIDE at Palais Theatre
Review: CANDIDE at Palais Theatre
Eddie Perfect
Image by Charlie Kinross Photography

4.5 Stars - Victorian Opera’s presentation of Leonard Bernstein’s Broadway Operetta, Candide, is full of buoyantly satirical fun and colourful characters. It also features a brilliant set design, and fabulously camp and creative costumes, both of which were created by innovative and talented designer, Dann Barber.

To say I have wanted to see a live performance of Candide for a while is an understatement. Luckily for me, Victorian Opera’s production of Candide was indeed highly enjoyable. From overture, to the stunning “Make Our Garden Grow” finale, this production of Candide is jammed packed full of farcical fun and sublime singing.

Candide has a stellar score by Leonard Bernstein, which he wrote in 1956, only one year before the wonderful West Side Story. The book and lyrics of Candide have though gone through several iterations, with the story itself based on Voltaire’s 1759 satirical novella Candide, ou I’Optimisme. For the current Victorian Opera production, the 1988 Scottish Opera version appears to be what has been used as the base for this fresh new take. As such, this version of Candide features a book by Hugh Wheeler, after Voltaire, as well as lyrics by Richard Wilbur, Stephen Sondheim, John La Touche, Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker and Leonard Bernstein himself. Clearly there have been quite a few 'cooks' in the writing department!

Review: CANDIDE at Palais Theatre
Euan Fistrovic Doidge and Katherine Allen
Image by Charlie Kinross Photography

In Victorian Opera’s iteration of Candide, which was directed distinctively and diligently by Dean Bryant, and majestically conducted by maestro Benjamin Northey, Voltaire’s classic novella comes vividly to life through a band of bohemian ‘Aussie clowns’, who travel around in an ingeniously designed caravan by Dann Barber. With Orchestra Victoria and the Victorian Opera Chorus filling the back half of the stage (both of whom under Benjamin Northey’s lead sound fantastic), the onstage travelling caravan, used by the primary cast to tell the story of Candide, works wonders in this concert style setting. It does so, by magically transforming into a miniature stage, consisting of different vaudevillian and camp ‘set dressings’ for each of the destinations Candide’s characters visit. Dann Barber and Dean Bryant are both geniuses, as is the rest of the creative team.

The troupe of opera and music theatre performers that brings this version of Candide to Melbourne, is led superbly by Eddie Perfect, who brings the Show’s original writer and narrator, Voltaire himself, to life, as well as the optimistic philosophical tutor Pangloss. The innocent protagonist Candide is played well by Lyndon Watts, who does a great job at conveying a more contemporary, gentle, and lyrical take on this classical character. Katherine Allen shines brightly as Candide’s aristocratic love-interest, Cunegonde. Her rendition of “Glitter and Be Gay” stands out as a highlight of the evening’s performance, with Allen singing Bernstein’s deliciously decadent tune perfectly, as well as simultaneously, and hilariously ‘voguing’ in her character's customised pink crocs!

Review: CANDIDE at Palais Theatre
Katherine Allen
Image by Charlie Kinross Photography

Maria Mercedes as Old Lady, Euan Fistrovic Doidge as Maximilian, Melanie Bird as Paquette, Eddie Muliaumaseali’I as Cacambo and Troy Sussman as Martin, all provide laughs and fun performances onstage. Alexander Lewis as Grand Inquisitor, Governor and Vanderdendur, truly is a master of both character and operatic vocal excellence. Whatever Lewis performs in, is always well worth a ticket admission.

Candide was presented by Victorian Opera at the Palais Theatre in St Kilda, from the 8th – 10th February 2024. More information on the rest of Victorian Opera’s 2024 season can be found by visiting victorianopera.com.au

Review: CANDIDE at Palais Theatre
Euan Fistrovic Doidge and Alexander Lewis
Image by Charlie Kinross Photography

 




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