Candide combines comedy and optimism

Erin Ryan (Cunegonde) and Paul Betz (Candide) in the ASU Herberger MainStage Lyric Opera Theatre production of Candide – Chelsea Version, April 20 – 29, 2007.

Photo by Tim Trumble

TEMPE, Ariz. – What does it mean when bad things happen to good people – in the case of Candide, great music and a joyous celebration. The ASU Herberger College School of Music presents the time-honored operatic classic, Candide, the Chelsea version. This high-energy spoof of the "Age of Optimism" runs April 20-29 at the Evelyn Smith Music Theatre on the ASU Tempe campus.

An ensemble cast of 18 performers play six principals and nearly 250 additional roles in this masterful adaptation of Voltaire's satirical comedy classic. Candide stumbles through an adventure as epic as Homer, traveling through every absurd adversity and hardship imaginable as he searches for his true love Cunnegonde. Throughout it all, he faithfully clings to an outrageous sense of optimism instilled by his teacher that this is "the best of all possible worlds."

Professional stage director Graham Whitehead returns to ASU to guest direct this farcical epic. Whitehead most recently directed The Scarecrow, an operatic adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Feathertop: A Moralized Legend, in fall 2006.

Candide is a great tongue-in-cheek version of boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl and boy-finds-girl – all mixed with a philosophical venting on the meaning of life, as if a Rocky Horror Show written by Voltaire and set to music by Bernstein,” Whitehead says.

William Reber, artistic director and principal conductor of the School of Music’s Lyric Opera Theatre, conducts the piece with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Richard Wilbur, Stephen Sondheim and others.

Candide, the Chelsea version contains sexual innuendo. Tickets are $7-$22 and available at or through the Herberger College box office, 480.965.6447. Show times are 7:30 p.m., April 20-21, 25 & 28 and 2 p.m. April 22 & 29. Performances are held in the Evelyn Smith Music Theatre, in the Herberger College School of Music building, 40 E. Gammage Pkwy., ASU Tempe campus.

The School of Music in the Herberger College of the Arts at Arizona State University is ranked 19th in the country and eighth among public institutions by “U.S.News & World Report.” More than 100 music faculty artists and scholars work with approximately 800 music majors each year in research, performance and scholarly activities. It presents approximately 700 concerts and recitals each year. To learn more about the School of Music, visit