Full Synopsis

Full Synopsis

Voltaire, a very old man in a nightshirt and nightcap, wakes. He takes a pen from an inkwell and picks up a manuscript, beginning to relate the tale of four young people — Candide, Paquette, Maximilian and Cunegonde — who live in Westphalia, in the castle of the Baron Thunder-Ten-Tronck. The noble Candide is a bastard nephew of the Baron, the sexy Paquette serves as a maid to the Baroness, the beautiful Cunegonde is the Baron's virgin daughter, and the handsome Maximilian is her self-centered brother. The four, with the Baron and Baroness, describe their perfect existence ("Life Is Happiness Indeed").

Voltaire explains that the four young people are introduced to the realities of life by the wise Dr. Pangloss. Voltaire transforms himself into Dr. Pangloss by putting on an academic cap and gown. He leads his students into the castle schoolroom, where he lectures them on the fact that, despite any evidence to the contrary, the world they are living in is the best any world can be ("The Best of All Possible Worlds"). He dismisses everyone but Paquette, insisting that she must stay for an advanced physics lesson. As Cunegonde runs off, she observes Pangloss making romantic overtures to Paquette. Pangloss explains he is giving Paquette a lesson in gravity.

Candide appears, chinning himself on a tree branch. Cunegonde joins him. He is madly in love with her. She proceeds to give him an advanced physics lesson, and they kiss, happily making plans for their future together ("Oh, Happy We"). They are suddenly interrupted by Maximilian, the Baron, the Baroness, Dr. Pangloss and Paquette. When Candide and Cunegonde state their intention to marry, the Baron says his daughter cannot marry a bastard, and Candide is exiled. Candide, sorely aggrieved, is still certain that this awful turn of events is for the best ("It Must Be So"). On the road, two men trick him into drinking to the health of the King of Bulgaria, stuff him in a sack and drag him off to the Bulgarian Army.

Bulgarian soldiers enter and rapidly slaughter the Baron, Baroness and Maximilian. They carry Cunegonde off, kicking. They plan to sell her to the men of their regiment ("O Miserere"). Candide's captors have stopped to rest. He is still in the sack. His captors are shot to death by two Westphalian soldiers. A Bulgarian soldier then brings an abused Cunegonde onstage and leaves her for dead. Cunegonde and Candide – who is still inside the sack – lament their lost innocence, united in spirit, although many miles apart ("Oh, Happy We – Reprise").

Next, Dr. Voltaire explains that Candide was released from the sack by a band of strolling players and abandoned in Holland. Cunegonde is moved from brothel to brothel until she catches the attention of both Issachar, a very wealthy man in Lisbon, and the Grand Inquisitor, who now share her pleasures. Cunegonde reflects on her sordid role in life ("Glitter and Be Gay"). 

A volcano erupts near Lisbon at the same time an earthquake shakes the city.

Candide is washed up on the shore of a fishing village. When he suggests that this turn of events casts doubt on the "best of all possible worlds" theory, he is scolded by Dr. Voltaire. Dr. Pangloss appears as a beggar who has lost his nose and several fingers. He tells Candide of the demise of everyone at the castle and informs him that Cunegonde is dead. Candide is distraught. Pangloss assures him that everything that has happened is for the best. An agent of the Inquisition overhears his words and takes them to mean that Candide and Pangloss do not believe in original sin; they are arrested as heretics. The Inquisition plans to purge the city of heretics to prevent future earthquakes.

A crowd of excited citizens gathers to witness the trials and executions of the heretics. A splendidly attired Cunegonde and her companion, the Old Lady, watch from a box as the crowd celebrates ("Auto Da Fé"). Candide and Pangloss are tried by the Inquisitor and recognized by Cunegonde. Pangloss is hanged, and Cunegonde faints as Candide is flogged. Dr. Voltaire points out that, when things so bad, they can only get better. The Old Lady blindfolds Candide and, unbeknownst to him, leads him to Cunegonde. On the way, he mourns his state ("This World"). The blindfold is removed, and he sees Cunegonde ("You Were Dead, You Know"). Both of Cunegonde's lovers visit her while Candide is there. Candide accidentally kills both men. The Old Lady insists that they must flee to Cadiz. She grabs a box of jewels as they escape.

When the jewels are stolen, the Old Lady decides to raise funds by seducing three Old Dons ("I Am Easily Assimilated"). However, they resist her charms and totter away. The gullible Candide is tricked into leading a relief party to rescue the Holy Jesuits of Montevideo from heathen attackers. He is told that he will be made the captain of a ship that leaves in three hours. Candide, Cunegonde and the Old Lady celebrate their coming journey to the New World ("I Am Easily Assimilated – Reprise").

In the New World, the swaggering, hot-blooded Governor of Cartagena, Colombia, is considering the purchase of two new concubines. The concubines turn out to be Paquette and Maximilian, who is now dressed as a female. The Governor rejects Paquette and selects Maximilian, for whom he expresses a strong attraction ("My Love"). Over Maximilian's objections, the Governor summons a priest to marry them. During the vows, the Governor discovers that his bride has two pineapples stuffed in his shirt. The Governor orders Maximilian hanged, but the priest offers to buy Maximilian for his Holy Fraternity.

On board, Cunegonde confesses her growing doubt in the teachings of Dr. Pangloss just as the ship is boarded by pirates who knock Candide unconscious and carry Cunegonde and the Old Lady away. When Candide questions man's need to massacre, cheat and murder, Dr. Voltaire's voice again scolds him. 

Candide arrives at the Jesuit's stronghold, where he is joyfully reunited with Paquette and Maximilian, now dressed as monks. When Maximilian learns of Candide's intention to marry Cunegonde, he assaults Candide, who accidentally kills him. Paquette disguises Candide as a monk, and they escape into the jungle.

After weeks of travel, they come upon the utopian city of Eldorado, where everything is truly for the best. There is no war, no hunger and no greed. The people and the animals are all wise, gentle and articulate. Two talkative pink sheep converse with a peaceful lion to prove the point ("Eldorado"). Candide and Paquette, who are dressed in golden robes, soon realize they hate peace and solitude. Candide misses Cunegonde. Candide and Paquette pack up the sheep with gold and jewels and leave.

In the meantime, the Old Lady is abandoned by the pirates and carried off by a Pygmy. The Pygmy sells her to a German botanist, who then sells her as a Madam of a brothel.

They travel to Cartagena, where they find the Old Lady on the street. They buy her freedom, and she tells them Cunegonde is in Constantinople. Spying their riches, the Governor offers to sail them to Constantinople on the frigate, Santa Rosalia. He rows them to the frigate on a shaky-looking skiff ("Bon Voyage"). The skiff capsizes; Candide, Paquette and the Old Lady end up on a tiny desert island with a single palm tree. They have lost their sheep and their new fortune. The sheep find them, and they all rejoice ("Best of All Possible Worlds – Reprise"). They see a sail in the distance, and know they are saved.

They arrive in Constantinople in time to see Cunegonde jump out of a cake, dressed as a Muslim slave. Candide and Cunegonde reunite again ("You Were Dead, You Know – Reprise"). He buys her, reserving one bag of gold on Paquette's advice. Then, Maximilian – who wasn't killed after all – reappears as a slave, convincing Candide to buy his freedom with the last bag of gold. The Old Lady offers to solve the future for the weary band by leading them to the Cave of a Wise Man. They are met by a Sage, who turns out to be Dr. Pangloss. He prattles on about the meaning of Life. While Pangloss babbles, a stray piece of paper floats into Candide's hand. The paper states that the natural function of man is work.

Candide is now inspired to say that they will buy a farm and cast aside wondering about the meaning of a meaningless world. They will fulfill their natural function by working God's earth from dawn to dusk ("Make Our Garden Grow"). A cow appears as Candide, Cunegonde and the company in rustic clothes pick up pitchforks, buckets and other farm implements. As they lift their grateful eyes to God, the cow drops dead of the pox and Dr. Voltaire, back in nightshirt, draws the curtain.