REVIEW: Grange Festival- Bernstein’s Candide

Brian Butler June 19, 2020

Based on Voltaire’s sarcastically over-optimistic classic novel , Candide is a rarely performed over-long eccentric piece of musical theatre. So it’s great that this filmed version at the Hampshire-based Grange Festival is a seven-person concert version, backed by the lush sounds of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

From the fab overture where Leonard Bernstein gives us all his best thumping tunes, you’re in for a treat. Gilbert and Sullivan stalwart Richard Suart is a mellifluous narrator, coupling this with two singing roles – master of optimistic teaching Dr Pangloss and the cynical street sweeper Martin who grunts and hurrumphs his way through later scenes.

The story is improbable and sometimes bewilderingly complex but no matter, though it may contain seduction, rape, murder of all sorts, hangings, execution by fire and miraculous resurrection of the central characters, it’s all done in the best  possible taste and with great humour.

Rob Houchen is an earnest, naive hero , Candide, with a beautiful soaring voice and real pathos n the moments which need it. Katie Hall, as his wayward betrothed Cunegonde has a magnificent operatic tone and is delightful in the camp, outrageous Glitter and be Gay.

Rosemary Ashe is a delight as the Old Woman , who has lost a buttock in mysterious circumstances but who as she sings magnificently is “so easily assimilated.”

The action flits in the wink of an eye from Westphalia to Paris, Venice, Montevideo and the high seas – much more achievable on the no-scenery concert platform  and Christopher Luscombe keeps the direction simple.

It’s fabulous musical nonsense and though we don’t find “ the best of all possible worlds” the main characters yearn for we do feel happy and reconciled in its finale watching their garden grow.

Candide is on YouTube hidden away, but Gscene has found it here (full performance below)   you should find some time to watch it .

If you watch don’t forget to donate.


Scene Magazine