UTBA: Utah Opera’s Candide is a Wacky Spectacle

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SALT LAKE CITY — Candide is indeed a many splendid thing. Endlessly rewritten and unquestionably unwieldy, it’s essentially a comedic operetta, and in the hands of the Utah Opera and Utah Symphony, an incredibly accessible and entertaining one at that.

The plot is based on 18th century writer Voltaire who critiqued the unbridled optimism of his time by chronicling the misadventures of a young man Candide (played by Jonathan Johnson) and a cohort of other optimists who learn how the world really works.

Candide, originally performed on Broadway in 1956 and given a “final” update in 1989, is also zany in ways only a modern operetta can be. One of the running gags is that characters who die return in the next scene without explanation—like Kenny in South Park. Actors also frequently break the fourth wall, mug for the audience, and at one point (spoiler alert) symphony director Thierry Fischer’s baton is borrowed to stab a rival lover. It’s Gilbert and Sullivan mixed with Cleese and Idle. Wacky, wacky stuff indeed.

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