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Leonard Bernstein's Candide (Great Performances)

4.4 out of 5 stars 111 customer reviews

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(May 17, 2005)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Leonard Bernstein's brilliant comic operetta comes to dazzling new life under theguidance of director Lonny Price (A Class Act). Based on the classic Voltaire tale of an innocent young man's journey through a life filled with colorful characters and unexpected life lessons, this tune-filled frolic features Tony Award©-winners Patti LuPone and Kristin Chenoweth heading a dazzling cast with Paul Groves, Stanford Olsen, Sir Thomas Allen and the Westminster Symphonic Choir. The impeccable score (with lyrics by luminaries including Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker, Stephen Sondheim, Richard Wilbur and John La Touche) includes a host of delightful songs such as "Life Is Happiness Indeed," "It Must Be So," "You Were Dead, You Know" and "Make Our Garden Grow." Now enjoy this all-new production of a musical comedy favorite with Broadway's top stars!

When a show's pit band is the New York Philharmonic, you can expect something special, and that's what this all-star Candide delivers. It is a concert performance, without scenery but with costumes, makeup, a bit of dancing, and a lot of acting. Musically, it sounds like the best of all possible Candides. Besides an unusually talented cast, its strong points include the pacing and accentuation of Marin Alsop, one of the brightest individuals in the younger generation of conductors; the polished presence of Thomas Allen, who doubles as the narrator and Dr. Pangloss, and the spirited participation of the brilliant Westminster Symphonic Choir.

Taught in childhood to believe they live in "the best of all possible worlds," the young characters struggle to preserve their optimism through a harrowing sequence of war, famine, shipwreck, piracy, slavery, rape, and disease with a sparkle in their eyes and a tune on their lips, until, with difficulty, they finally reach a sense of reality.

Candide spans the traditional division between opera and Broadway. The soloists, all headliners, are recruited from both worlds. Broadway is represented by Patti LuPone, who became a legend in Evita, and Tony award winner Kristin Chenoweth. Paul Groves and Stanford Olsen have distinguished operatic backgrounds. They all sing Leonard Bernstein's catchy tunes and the show's clever lyrics with gorgeous voices, a lot of acting skill and a witty, flippant response to Voltaire's cynical (or, rather, realistic) philosophy. --Joe McLellan

Special Features

  • Includes liner notes by Lonny Price

Product Details

  • Actors: Kristin Chenoweth, Patti LuPone, Paul Groves, Sir Thomas Allen, Marin Alsop
  • Directors: Lonny Price
  • Writers: Leonard Bernstein, Hugh Wheeler, Richard Wilbur, Stephen Sondheim
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS 5.1)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: May 17, 2005
  • Run Time: 116 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0007WFXZI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,457 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Leonard Bernstein's Candide (Great Performances)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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This is a splendid performance of Candide. But before you go any further, you should realise that this is a concert performance, not a full scale operatic staging of the work. That said, the singing is glorious and the acting, despite this being a concert performance is outstanding. It is driven to milk all the comic elements out of the play. It all works delightfully. It is so brimful of joie de vivre, it leaves you smiling and humming all day. I must disagree with a previous reviewer who said, Bernstein wouldn't be amused. This is precisely what he would have wanted to achieve.

Sir Thomas Allen is superb as Dr. Pangloss who doubles as the narrator of the concert. Paul Groves and Patti LuPone are both excellent. But the star of this Candide is surely the lovely Kristin Chenoweth as Cunegonde, who in addition to having a magnificient voice shows that she is a natural comedienne and actress. This recording of Candide immediately goes to the top of the list. Now, if only we could have Bernstein's own production of Candide recorded live at the Barbican Theatre in London. That recording under the Deutsche Grammophon label is yet to appear on DVD.

I should comment on the camerawork which received criticism from a previous reviewer. It is a mark of the electric quality of this bravura performance that most viewers don't even notice the occasionally almost amateurish shakiness of the camera. The cameraman was shaky at times and faces occasionally went in and out of focus but a large part of what I initially attributed to poor camerawork was in fact artificially introduced motion artifacts. This is a problem with the DVD encoding and not the camera. These cause apparent jumps in the picture. But this is present only in DVD players with low end video processors.
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Based on the wickedly funny satire by Voltaire, CANDIDE was originally produced on Broadway in 1956. The Leonard Bernstein score was greatly admired, as were the lyrics from an unexpected combination of Richard Wilbur, John Latouche, and Dorothy Parker. Sadly, the script by Lillian Hellman and the production as a whole proved hamfisted, to say the least, and in spite of a legendary performance by Barbara Cook the show closed after a mere seventy three performances.

On-going admiration made the original cast album a favorite in theatre circles, and over the years there have been numerous attempts to revive CANDIDE--but each attempt proved problematic at best. Even when Hellman's script was discarded, the show simply proved impossible to stage... until 2004, when director Lonny Price staged the piece for a limited engagement at Lincoln Center.

Like most post-1956 directors, Price largely discarded the Hellman script. He also went quite a bit further: he makes no effort to "stage" CANDIDE in a traditional style. Placing no less than the New York Philharmonic and Westminister Symphonic Choir in the middle of the stage, using a minimum of props and even fewer costumes, Price has his actors romp through the orchestra and play directly and pointedly to the audience--and the result is theatre at its most theatrical and most uniquely powerful.

The cast is superior. Paul Groves and Kristin Chenoweth offer memorable vocals in the leading roles of Candide and his lady love Cunegonde, and while Chenoweth doesn't manage to best Barbara Cook's memorable performance she at least equals it; in her hands the famous "Glitter and be Gay" proves as comic as it is beautiful. Sir Thomas Allen provides tremendous stability in multiple roles, including the misguided Dr. Pangloss.
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If you missed this performance on PBS, be sure to snag a copy of this DVD. This is a brisk, snappy, offbeat, and joyous version of a production that is notoriously difficult to pull off. Kristen Chenoweth's performance (in the role of Cunegonde) alone makes this a must-have. Brilliant!
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Lonny Price has, by and large, directed an extraordinary event and captured it on video for all of us to enjoy. I felt that I truly had an orchestra seat at an excellent performance - stage-to-video doesn't get much better than that.

Hearing Bernstein's score played by this huge marvelous orchestra and sung by a cast/chorus that has the right balance of excellent voices AND the exuberance necessary for "musical theatre" is a treat.

Price has used the very limited staging opportunities of Avery Fisher Hall to bring fun and life to a staged concert. It reinforces that usually, simplicity is the best choice if the material is solid.

The use of chorus-as-card-section is great fun. His casting is great fun - Paul Groves in lederhosen is always a believable innocent Candide. Who'd have guessed that bald, bespectacled Jeff Blumenkrantz is perfect as the narcissistic Maximillian. Sir Thomas Allen as Pangloss: nothing short of brilliant. And clearly conductor Marin Alsop and the orchestra are having great fun as well.

What I don't understand is why Price allowed the staging and the actors to drift into "cute" and "indulgent" at various points in the production.

Cute: at one of the most touching points of the story - when Candide begins his journey into the world - with nothing but optimism to sustain him - Price screws it up. Competing with Paul Groves sensitive and beautiful performance of "It Must Be So," is the cheap gimmick of the chorus passing Candide's beloved possessions down the row and into his roll-on bag .... A baseball glove, a Frisbee, and a cherished West Side Story album (huge laughs from Bernstein fans long before we know what they're laughing at) then the thump thump thump as the roller bag goes down stairs.
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