By Emily Gardner
After a tidal wave of discussion and disputes surrounding the University of Dallas’ spring Mainstage, “Candide,” it is no wonder that the show was sold out for all eight performances. There were a number of faculty members and students who opposed Bernstein and Wilbur’s rendition of a Voltaire novel being brought to UD, but many at UD were just as quick to defend its showing.
After seeing the show for myself on opening night, I found the performance both surprising and predictable. I was surprised that many of the offensive scenes that I heard would be a part of the musical were not included. Even so, it was apparent that a number of the jokes made did not amuse some audience members.
What did not surprise me was the biting sarcasm that is characteristic of Voltaire. However, because it was expected, I found myself enjoying the musical’s wittiness and my friends’ talents instead of being shocked by its content.
Though I have my critiques of the overall message of Voltaire’s work, UD’s performance of “Candide” was, for me, a successful endeavor that showcased the incredible talent of our students and the drama and music departments. I was stunned in particular by the principal actors’ voices, as I have heard of the difficulty of performing Bernstein’s music. From what I understand, it was an incredible feat to pull off, and I thought that all of the actors did pull it off with grace and finesse.
Since my opinion is only one of many, I decided to ask what some of my classmates thought of the show. Senior English major Gretchen Baldau shared her thoughts of the musical overall but also on particular scene.
“I was pleasantly surprised that it was not as offensive as I thought it was going to be, given what I had heard about its message and its content,” Baldau said. “Still, I think that the ‘auto-da-fé’ scene seemed sacrilegious enough for the play not to be put on at UD. Using prayer, which we believe is for God alone, to satirize is an unnecessary and offensive way to get the message across. The show still had a great deal of charm, brought out by the performers’ clever and on-point acting.”
Some deemed the “auto-da-fé” scene, which depicts the burnings and hangings that occurred during the Spanish Inquisition with music and Latin chanting in the background, offensive. Others thought that this scene was necessary.
Senior drama major Jerick Johnson stated his opinion of the inclusion of the scene.
“I believe very much in the goodness of the Christian religion,” he said. “However, there have been tragic moments in the history of the Catholic Church, and we need to acknowledge them and move on from it.”
Other students were amazed at the production. Junior philosophy major Joe Dougherty related his experience.
“On the whole, I was very impressed by the artistic performance and what they were able to put together on such a tiny theater,” he said. “The staging was incredible.”
Some students were critical of the message that the audience was left with by the end of the show. Senior physics major Anthony Kersting shared his appraisal of Voltaire’s overall message.
“The characters in ‘Candide’ don’t look for the good in the institutions that they come across. The institutions are just satirized and mocked. The message of the play glosses over any of the truth that can be pulled from any of these human institutions, particularly the Catholic Church,” he said. “I’m not criticizing anyone who enjoyed it. I enjoyed it myself, especially in the Second Act. Overall, though, it leaves you without much to dwell on.”
Johnson believed the musical related a good message in the end.
“By the end of the play, the characters were able to say, ‘We need to work hard and move on from this way of thinking,’” Johnson said. “They came to acknowledge a God that encompasses the good and the bad that happens to you.”
After seeing the show, the opinions of UD students remain as diversified as before the main stage performance. Without question, Candide continues to promote discussion and disagreement.