Book by Lillian Helman, revised by Hugh Wheeler for the 1974 revival, based on Voltaire’s Candide. Music by Leonard Bernstein. Lyrics by Richard Wilbur. Additional lyrics for the 1974 and 1997 revivals by Stephen Sondheim, Dorothy Parker and John LaTouche. Uncredited lyrics by Leonard Bernstein. The original Broadway production opened on 1 December 1956 and was directed by Tyrone Guthrie with choreography by Anna Sokolow, running for 73 performances. The revised Broadway production opened on 10 March 1974 and was directed by Harold Prince with choreography by Patricia Birch, running for 740 performances.

Synopsis and Musical Numbers

The synopsis below gives the outline of the revised 1974 production by Hugh Wheeler. Songs with lyrics written or adapted by Stephen Sondheim are indicated with an asterisk.

Voltaire, an old man is asleep in his bed (OVERTURE). A servant wakes him with some hot chocolate and Voltaire begins reading his manuscript, which focuses on the lives of four teenagers: Candide (the bastard cousin who is well treated), Paquette (the sexy sewing maid who happily grants favors to her master), Cunegonde (the Baron’s virgin daughter), and her brother, Maximilian (an extremely self-centered, egotistical young man who is constantly admiring himself in a mirror) (LIFE IS HAPPINESS INDEED*). As Voltaire continues reading his story, he takes on the role of Dr. Pangloss, the admired teacher, as he is joined by his four pupils in a PARADE to their 18th-century American-style schoolroom, complete with desks, a blackboard, and a picture of the Baron that is reminiscent of George Washington. The four teenagers seat themselves as Dr. Pangloss begins the lesson (THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS*).

At the end of the class, Paquette is privately tutored by Dr. Pangloss, who teaches her sex and physics. The two are witnessed by Cunegonde who asks Dr. Pangloss to enlighten her on advanced physics. Using Paquette to help him demonstrate, he explains the specifics of gravity between the male and female bodies. A delighted Cunegonde leaves the two and searches out Candide in the Baron’s orchard where she proceeds to enlighten him. The two wildly kiss and embrace and envision their married life together (OH HAPPY WE). During the song the begin undressing each other until they are in their undergarments. The Baron, Baroness, Maximilian, Pangloss, and Paquette interrupt the two lovers who entreat the Baron to let them marry. The Baron, appalled by the suggestion that his daughter marry a bastard, banishes Candide. The young lad wonders about his lonely future (IT MUST BE SO). Two men grab the innocent boy and carry him off in a sack to join the Bulgarian Army. Back at the Baron’s Chapel, the Baron and his family are praying for deliverance as the sounds of the battle between the Bulgarians and West Phalians are heard in the distance. The Bulgarians enter and spear all but Cunegonde who they carry off to sell her favors for 20 ducats per customer (O MISERERE). Voltaire then describes the respective fates of Candide and Cunegonde: Candide escapes when his two abductors are killed, while Cunegonde is left for dead after having been ravished. The two individually lament their fate (OH HAPPY WE – REPRISE).

Voltaire continues to outline their adventures. Candide has become an actor playing female roles quite badly and Cunegonde has been moved from brothel to brothel until she becomes the mistress of a wealthy Portuguese Jew in Lisbon. In their bedchamber in Lisbon, the Jew gives Cunegonde a diamond Star of David and the Grand Inquisitor pays her with a diamond cross. Cunegonde, left alone, ponders her life as she examines her jewels (GLITTER AND BE GAY). Candide is seen in a part of Lisbon that has been destroyed by an earthquake. As he surveys the disaster, he discovers Dr. Pangloss sporting a metal nose as a result of Syphilis he contracted from Paquette. The two are arrested for heresy and dragged before the excited citizens in the central square who are there to witness the floggings, hangings and burnings of the inquisition (AUTO DA FE/WHAT A DAY*). Cunegonde arrives with an old woman and settles down to watch the proceedings. Pangloss is taken off to be hanged. Cunegonde recognizes her old teacher and Candide, who is flogged and left unconscious. He is taken off by Cunegonde’s servant and healed, but he doubts the value of life (THIS WORLD*). The old woman leads him to Cunegonde and the two are happily reunited (YOU WERE DEAD YOU KNOW). They are interrupted by the arrival of the Jew, who is accidentally killed by Candide, and the subsequent arrival of the Grand Inquisitor, whom Candide purposely kills (THE RICH JEW AND THE GRAND INQUISITOR). The old lady urges them to flee and attempts to gain money for the trip by seducing three Spaniards (I AM EASILY ASSIMILATED), but her efforts are spurned. As Cunegonde, Candide and the old lady await their fate, a businessman offers Candide a job as Captain of a ship bound for the new world. The three ponder their future.

Voltaire describes Cartogena, Columbia while a local whore transforms him into the lecherous provincial Governor. Two young female slaves are whipped onto the slaves’ block and instantly recognize each other as Maximilian, who has disguised himself as a girl to avoid the army, and Paquette. The Governor rejects Paquette and chooses Maximilian and begins expressing his emotions (MY LOVE). Maximilian attempts to avoid him, but the Governor misinterprets the avoidance as shyness and takes Maximilian to be married in a mock ceremony. After the fake ceremony the Governor fondles Maximilian, realizes that something is wrong, rips open Maximilian’s blouse, and finds coconuts on a hairy chest. Maximilian pleads for his life. On the ship carrying Candide and Cunegonde, the old lady tells her two companions about her lost buttock, which was cut off by a pirate (BARCAROLLE – UPON A SHIP AT SEA). Her tale is interrupted as she and Cunegonde are carried off and Candide is left unconscious. Later, Candide goes to a cathedral to seek solace. He is approached by two priests who he discovers are Paquette and Maximilian (ALLELUIA). When Candide tells Maximilian that Cunegonde lives and that he plans on marrying her, the enraged Maximilian attempts to kill him because Candide is, after all, still a bastard. Candide accidentally hits Maximilian with a statue and, assuming that he is dead, leaves with Paquette.

Voltaire appears to continue the narrative: Candide and Paquette stumble upon Eldorado, a fabled land where life is wonderful; the inhabitants gentle and intelligent, and even the animals, represented by two pink sheep, are happy creatures (SHEEP’S SONG*). Unable to stand the placid life, Paquette and Candide steal two of the sheep and load them with jewels and gold. Candide and Paquette return to Columbia where they find the old lady who tells them Cunegonde is in Constantinople. The Governor arrives, impounds the sheep, takes Paquette to his room and gives Candide to some whores for pleasure. Later, the Governor and some townspeople bid farewell to Candide, the old lady and Paquette (BON VOYAGE) as they send them off in an unseaworthy skiff which sinks. The three land on a desert island followed by the two sheep, still laden with the jewels and gold. They joyously sing (THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS – REPRISE) before setting off for Constantinople, where they find Cunegonde disguised as a belly dancer (YOU WERE DEAD YOU KNOW – REPRISE). Candide buys her and a disguised Maximilian. The five set off to find the wisest man in the world, who is none other than their old teacher Dr. Pangloss (BARCAROLLE). They journey off together to create a true Garden of Eden (MAKE OUR GARDEN GROW).

Mini Gallery

Candide Candide Candide Candide

Purchases from

From left to right above: 1. Candide 1956 Original Broadway Cast CD. 2. Candide 1988 Scottish Opera Cast Album CD. 3. Candide 1991 Studio Album Conducted by Leonard Bernstein CD. 4. Candide 1997 Broadway Revival Cast CD. 5. Candide 1999 London Revival Cast CD.

From left to right above: 1. Candide 1956 Live at Lincoln Centre DVD. 2. Candide by Voltaire. 3. Candide by Voltaire (Norton Critical Edition). 4. Candide Cliffs Notes Study Guide. 5. Candide Vocal Score.


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