Review: Symphonie of the Bicycle at The Space Theatre
May 22, 2024
Review: Legally Blonde the Musical at Futures Theatre
May 31, 2024

Review: Candide by State Theatre Company and State Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre

Leonard Bernstein’s Candide is a whimsical odyssey through the absurdities and contradictions of life, wrapped in a delightful musical package. With a libretto by luminaries such as Lillian Hellman, Richard Wilbur, and Stephen Sondheim, this operatic adaptation of Voltaire’s satirical novella is a tour de force of wit, comedy, and poignant reflection.

From the opening notes of the overture, Bernstein’s score sweeps the audience into a world of adventure and uncertainty. The music, ranging from jubilant melodies to melancholic ballads, serves as the perfect backdrop for Candide’s journey from naïveté to wisdom. Underneath the lively surface, there’s a depth of emotion and intellect that resonates long after the final note.

The cast of characters is as colourful as they come, each representing a facet of the human condition. Candide himself, is the eternal optimist, navigating a series of misfortunes with unwavering hope, while his beloved Cunegonde, grapples with the moral complexities of survival. From the cynical Dr Pangloss to the pragmatic Old Lady, every role is infused with personality and purpose.

Accomplished tenor, Alexander Lewis portrays Candide with endearing innocence. His belief that “all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds” is both his charm and his folly. Lewis delivers Candide’s arc navigating the character’s journey from naive youth to disillusioned maturity with both vocal prowess and emotional depth, making his solos, particularly “It Must Be So” and “Make Our Garden Grow,” deeply moving.

Annie Aiken, who plays Cunegonde, Candide’s love interest, is a tour de force of vocal gymnastics. Her signature aria, “Glitter and Be Gay,” is a stunning showcase of coloratura soprano brilliance, blending humour and technical skill. The character’s transformation from sheltered aristocrat to resilient survivor is portrayed with both comedic flair and dramatic intensity.

Mitchell Butel [the multitalented, multitasking co-director] as the insufferable idealist and Candide’s mentor, is the embodiment of philosophical nonsense. Butel captures the character’s pompous certainty and misguided teachings with sharp comedic timing, particularly in the song “The Best of All Possible Worlds.” His constant reappearances, despite various misfortunes, add an entertaining continuity to the narrative.

The always spectacular Caroline O’Connor brings The Old Lady to life with her pragmatic cynicism and half-buttock lament, providing both comic relief and a sobering counterpoint to the relentless optimism of Dr Pangloss. Her number, “I Am Easily Assimilated,” is both hilarious and moving, highlighting the resilience and adaptability required for survival.

Maximilian and Paquette, though secondary characters, add layers of complexity and satire. Maximilian’s narcissistic vanity and eventual humbling, alongside Paquette’s tragic journey through exploitation and disease, underscore the novella’s critique of societal norms and injustices.

Making his operatic debut, and her professional debut, Hans and Taylah Johns respectively played these characters with jest and gave stellar performances. I particularly enjoyed the subtle ‘Hansisms’ throughout.

The ensemble, along with a chorus of thousands, depicted various nobles, soldiers and citizens to bring richness and chaos, with a magnificent wall of sound overtaking the theatre in the finale.

The production design is a visual feast, seamlessly blending period aesthetics with contemporary flair. From opulent palaces to war-torn battlefields, each scene is brought to life with stunning detail and imagination by set designer Ailsa Paterson, costumes by Brendan De La hay and lighting by Gavin Norris. The choreography, by Amy Campbell, too, is a highlight, with lively dances and intricate staging adding to the spectacle.

But perhaps the true heart of Candide lies in its message—a timeless exploration of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Through all the trials and tribulations, the characters ultimately discover that true happiness lies not in blind optimism, but in embracing the absurdity of life with courage and grace.

Candide is a virtuoso musical opera, an incredible collaboration between State Opera South Australia and State Theatre Company South Australia, masterfully conducted by Anthony Hunt, that entertains, provokes, and ultimately uplifts its audience. With its unforgettable score, vibrant characters, and profound themes, it’s a journey well worth taking—a celebration of the human spirit in all its complexity and resilience.

4.5 stars


Lia Loves.


Lia Loves
Lia Loves
Theatre. Dance. Culture. Events. Follow her adventures as Adelaide's premier theatre buff, arts contributor, educator and ambassador!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *