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-- Grace Jean
It was the amplification that stole the show -- or, more accurately, overwhelmed it Friday during the first of three performances of Leonard Bernstein's dark musical comedy "Candide" at Catholic University's Hartke Theater. . Set way too high for the occasion and with all the sound seeming to stream from one stage-left speaker, the sound system obliterated any sense of sonic space, distance or direction from the dialogue and, with its bias set toward high frequencies, gave every voice a dry-sounding edge.
This was a shame because, all in all, the Catholic University troupe did a very good job with this complicated show. Music Director Murry Sidlin conducted a large and well-prepared orchestra with a sure hand and a splendid sense of momentum. The production, from the Royal National Theater of 1999, moved smoothly and rhythmically and with an engaging sense of energy. The acting was mostly excellent, the dancing splendid, the sets, lighting and costumes all well conceived and the direction exemplary.
Many of the roles were double-cast for the three-performance weekend. Friday's cast featured Jeffrey Higgins, who warmed up quickly into his huge role as Pangloss/Voltaire, narrator and participant in this morality tale; Patrick Elliott, a somewhat wooden Candide; and Eileen Smith, whose Cunegonde, a lady of sensationally ill repute, was delightfully matter-of-fact. Patrick Guetti played the narcissistic Maximillian for every ounce of fey suggestiveness.
Issachah Savage gave the role of the Governor his reliably professional touch, and Katie Keyser as Paquette and Dominique Donnarumma as the Old Lady projected their characters boldly.
It could be sensed through the amplification that, with the exception of Savage and Smith, who delivered their songs like opera singers, the cast was most comfortable in a lighter, pop mode and all of them sang accurately and with fine diction The show was the culmination of a week-long festival of lectures, movies and concerts on "The Politics of Comedy" that focused on Bernstein and Voltaire.
-- Joan Reinthaler