Monday, October 17, 2011

Farewell to Candide

Mary Zimmerman's definitive production of Candide gave its final performance yesterday at the Huntington, and you know the partner unit and I had to be there (it was our third time at the show).  So we were squeezed into the sold-out house one last time - along with several familiar faces; there were a lot of second- and third-timers at this performance.  And we all watched as the musical unfurled in just as fresh and magical a fashion as it had the first time around; I'm always amazed at how great actors can inhabit the same emotional material again and again and keep it thrillingly alive.  The show had edged slightly closer to farce, I thought - a natural event when you've got so many talented comedians in one company - but only slightly; the rueful romantic tone and the intellectual edge - along with the stunning theatrical sweep - were still there, too.  And the reduction of the score has grown on me the more I've heard it; I still missed the richness of the original version of the overture - but elsewhere the light, sweet instrumentation struck me as lovely, and perhaps more appropriate to Zimmerman's staging than a symphonic accompaniment would have been.

The chatter at intermission was, of course, about a possible Broadway transfer - which most people assume, from the stunning quality of the production, is already a done deal.  But beyond a little gossip about the Roundabout, there seems to be little fresh news on that front.  Can New York possibly pass this up?  It seems incredible, but that's where it stands right now.

So perhaps yesterday was the last time I'll ever see this version of Candide.  The performance closed with one unexpected flourish, however.  At previous shows, I've always been struck by the lack of any repeated curtain calls (the audience was always cheering well after the actors left the stage); I assumed this disciplined abbreviation was intended as one last extension of Zimmerman's emphasis on ensemble and community.

But on Sunday afternoon, the crowd just wouldn't stop cheering.  The lights went up, the doors opened, but people wouldn't leave; they just stood there, clapping and hollering and stamping their feet.  In fact as minutes ticked by, the noise only got louder; we weren't going to let these people go.  Finally, the actors staggered out, looking delighted but not quite certain what to do.  For a moment they milled onstage, laughing and hugging; Geoff Packard (Candide) looked near tears.  Then they joined hands in a rough line, and there was one more charmingly awkward group bow.  People waved good-bye, from both the stage and the house.

And then, finally, it was really over.  My partner and I looked at each other.  "Well," he said, "it still might play in New York, and that's not very far away."

1 comment:

  1. this puts it exactly how I feel about this performance. I, too, have seen it three times. I love the cast and show.