Candide - reviews of Menier's 'glittering' operetta revival

In-your-face musical of Voltaire's famous satire is silly, cerebral, subversive fun

LAST UPDATED AT 07:42 ON Thu 5 Dec 2013
What you need to know

The Menier Chocolate Factory have taken up the challenge of reviving Leonard Bernstein's notoriously difficult operetta Candide for the festive season and their reward is enthusiastic reviews. Bernstein's musical, based on Voltaire's satirical novella, first opened in 1956 but has been revised numerous times since.

It tells the story of the innocent Candide, who suffers a series of tragedies, abuses and ordeals, but remains optimistic by adhering to the philosophy of his teacher Dr Pangloss that he is living in "the best of all possible worlds".

Matthew White directs the Menier production starring Fra Fee (from the Les Miserables movie) as Candide and James Dreyfus as Dr Pangloss. Runs until 22 February.

What the critics like

"This mixture of lush operetta, sour satire and picaresque pantomime isn't quite like anything else," says Dominic Maxwell in The Times. Menier's bustling, in-your-face revival is cerebral, silly and subversive, which means they've got remarkably close to the spirit of Voltaire.

Candide is a notoriously tricky musical, but the Chocolate Factory knows how to wrest magnificence from the jaws of potential mediocrity, says Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph. "This surprise theatrical pleasure succeeds," he says, and the reason is that it features both quasi-Pythonesque silliness and hard-won poignancy.

"It might not explicitly be a Christmas show, but this production has the same impish, audience-winking humour as panto," says Tom Wicker in Time Out. It's an all-singing picaresque piss-take that's bound to get right up some people's noses, but embrace it and you'll have a riot.

What they don't like

The Menier's Candide is a glittering but empty evening, says Fiona Mountford in the Evening Standard. There's a queasily flippant tone, and though the music is a delight, a soundtrack album is an easier proposition than an entire stage show. · 

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