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'Candide' combines comedy, optimism


April 25, 2007

What does it mean when bad things happen to good people? In the case of Candide, it means 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 through April 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, Cunegonde. 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,” this past fall.

“‘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 range in price from $7 to $22 and are available at the Web site http://herbergercollege.asu.edu/mainstage or through the Herberger College box office by calling (480) 965-6447. Show times are 7:30 p.m., April 25 and 28, and 2 p.m., April 29.