Candide is based on a famous novel by Voltaire, a satiric story about an innocent young man who believes that eventually all is for the best, in this best of all possible worlds. He and his friends survive any number of disasters, always continuing their optimistic search for this "best of all possible worlds". Sondheim is only peripherally connected with this show, having written additional lyrics for the 1973 and 1997 revivals.
Candide was originally a collaboration between Composer Leonard Bernstein and Playwright Lillian Hellman. Bernstein was writing Candide with Hellman (and lyricist John LaTouche) at the same time that he was writing West Side Story with Sondheim, and indeed, several numbers originally intended for one show ended up in the other. John LaTouche died early in the process, and Bernstein asked Sondheim to write lyrics for the show. Sondheim declined, Bernstein turned to lyricist Richard Wilbur, and the 1956 version of the show featured lyrics by LaTouche, Richard Wilbur, Bernstein, Dorothy Parker (for "The Venice Gavotte") and Lillian Hellman. (The lyrics were credited to Richard Wilbur, with "additional lyrics" by John LaTouche.) Although the score was uniformly admired, the show flopped in 1956. Most critics blamed the book.
In 1973, the show was revived, with a new book by Hugh Wheeler, who threw out the Hellman book and went back to Voltaire. Hal Prince directed, with choreography by Patricia Birch, in a now famous environmental staging at the Chelsea Theatre Center. (This became known as "The Chelsea Version"). For this new incarnation, Sondheim agreed to write some new lyrics, mainly to music written for the show but not used in the original production, as well as adjusting some of the older lyrics. His numbers include "Life is Happiness Indeed" (which was based on, and essentially replaced Bernstein and Parker's "The Venice Gavotte" from the 1956 version), "This World", "The Sheep Song", and half of "Auto Da Fe". For this incarnation, the lyric credits read "Lyrics by Richard Wilbur. With additional lyrics by John LaTouche, Dorothy Parker, Lillian Hellman, Leonard Bernstein, and Stephen Sondheim". This second incarnation of the show was a hit, and they transferred to Broadway, (at the Broadway Theatre) in 1974, environmental staging and all.
The show was revived again in 1982 at the NYC Opera, and broadcast on "Live at Lincoln Center". For this version, Hal Prince and Pat Birch reconceived their environmental staging for a proscenium, in what came to be known as "the Opera House" version of the show. Much of the music that had been cut from the original 1956 version for the 1973 "Chelsea Version" was restored.
Most recently, the show was revived on Broadway at the Gershwin in 1997, with Hal Prince and Patricia Birch essentially remounting their Opera House staging. Sondheim wrote some additional material for this incarnation, including an expanded version of "I Am Easily Assimilated" and other material for the Old Lady, who was played in this production by Andrea Martin. He is said to be the uncredited author of the humorous notes (titled "Dr. Voltaire's Marvelous Glossary") that were inserted into each Broadway playbill to help the audience follow the language and characters in the show. Lyric credits revert back to "Lyrics by Richard Wilbur, With additional lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and John LaTouche."
- June Abernathy
* Includes contribution from Sondheim
* Includes contribution from Sondheim
Assassins is about how society interprets the American Dream, marginalizes outsiders and rewrites and sanitizes its collective history. "Something Just Broke" is a major distraction and plays like an afterthought, shoe horned simply to appease. The song breaks the dramatic fluidity and obstructs the overall pacing and climactic arc which derails the very intent and momentum that makes this work so compelling...
- Mark Bakalor
Which is not to say that it is perfect...
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