Candide (1974 Version)
Leonard Bernstein's comedic operetta based on Voltaire's satire of innocence, optimism and the unexpected lessons of life.
Show Essentials
+ Ensemble

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.

← Back to Candide (1974 Version)
Cast Size: Large (21 or more performers)
Cast Type: Older Roles
Dance Requirements: None

Character Breakdown

Dr. Voltaire / Pangloss
Voltaire is the story's wise and all-knowing narrator. Dr. Pangloss is Cunegonde and Candide's teacher. He loves Paquette.
Gender: male
Age: 40 to 50
Vocal range top: G5
Vocal range bottom: G2
A naïve and trusting youth, who blindly follows the teachings of his teacher. Cunegonde's lover and nephew to the Baron and Baroness.
Gender: male
Age: 20 to 30
Vocal range top: A5
Vocal range bottom: A3
A sexy but good-hearted maid who does her best to help reunite Candide with Cunegonde.
Gender: female
Age: 18 to 25
Vocal range top: G5
Vocal range bottom: A3
Cunegonde and Maximillian's father. A stuffy nobleman and indiscreet womanizer.
Gender: male
Age: 55 to 65
Cunegonde and Maximillian's mother and the Baron's wife.
Gender: female
Age: 50 to 60
A blonde beauty and Candide's love interest. Faithful, strong, and attractive.
Gender: female
Age: 18 to 25
Vocal range top: E6
Vocal range bottom: A3
Cunegonde's brother. A young, handsome aristocrat whose looks are only matched by his vanity.
Gender: male
Age: 20 to 25
Vocal range top: G5
Vocal range bottom: G2
Old Lady
Though she was once beautiful, she is now old and ugly. Acts as a guide and teacher to Candide and Cunegonde.
Gender: female
Age: 60 to 75
Vocal range top: A5
Vocal range bottom: A3
Soldiers, Citizens, Sailors, Pirates, Banquet Guests
Full Song List
Candide (1974): Overture
Candide (1974): Life Is Happiness Indeed/ Parade
Candide (1974): The Best Of All Possible Worlds
Candide (1974): Oh Happy We
Candide (1974): It Must Be So
Candide (1974): Oh Happy We (reprise)
Candide (1974): Glitter And Be Gay
Candide (1974): Auto Da Fe (What A Day)
Candide (1974): This World
Candide (1974): You Were Dead, You Know
Candide (1974): I'm Easily Assimilated
Candide (1974): I'm Easily Assimilated (reprise)
Candide (1974): My Love
Candide (1974): Sheep's Song
Candide (1974): Bon Voyage
Candide (1974): Finale: Make Our Garden Grow

Show History


Candide is an operetta with music composed by Leonard Bernstein and primary lyrics by the poet, Richard Wilbur, based on the novella of the same name. The novella, Candide, on which the operetta is based, was written by French author and philosopher, Voltaire. The novella, first published in 1759, is a satire that is now considered one of the great works of Western literature. The operetta itself was originally conceived by Lillian Hellman as a play with incidental music in the style of her previous work, The Lark. The composer, Leonard Bernstein, however, was so excited about this idea that he convinced Hellman to do it as a "comic operetta;" she then wrote the original libretto. Many lyricists worked on the show: first James Agee (whose work was ultimately not used), then Dorothy Parker, John Latouche and Richard Wilbur. In addition, the lyrics to "I Am Easily Assimilated" were done by Leonard and Felicia Bernstein, and Hellman wrote the words to "Eldorado."

Unfortunately, when Candide premiered on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theatre in 1956, it was a disaster. Despite its pedigree, the operetta ran for only two months and 73 performances. Hellman's libretto received the large brunt of the criticism, and Candide soon developed a reputation as a show with a glorious score that was crippled by an unworkable book. So, when Harold Prince began work on a revival of the project in 1974, a new book was first among the things that needed to be addressed. Lillian Hellman refused to let any of her original work be used, so Prince commissioned a new, one-act book from Hugh Wheeler to match Bernstein's lauded score. The show was pared down, half of the musical numbers were cut and Wilbur and Stephen Sondheim contributed new, revised lyrics. Thusly, the 1974 revised, hit version, of Candide, which came to be known as the Chelsea Version for the theatre in which it premiered, was born.


The operetta first premiered on Broadway on December 1, 1956, with a libretto by Lillian Hellman, and became a notorious flop. Eighteen years later, however, in a 1974 revised version commissioned by director, Harold Prince, Candide finally became a hit. With a new libretto by Hugh Wheeler, which more faithfully follows the hilarity and bawdy irreverence of Voltaire's novel, and additional lyrics contributed by Stephen Sondheim and John Latouche, Candide opened at the Chelsea Theater Center in Brooklyn on December 18, 1973. This revised version ran there for seven weeks before transferring to Broadway, where it opened at the Broadway Theatre on March 10, 1974.  In its new form, Candide ran for 740 performances, eventually closing on January 4, 1976. The opening night cast included: Mark Baker (Candide), Maureen Brennan (Cunegonde), Sam Freed (Maximilian), Lewis J. Stadlen (Dr. Pangloss) and June Gable as the Old Lady.

In the revised edition, Candide overcame the unenthusiastic reaction of early audiences and critics, achieving enormous popularity. It has gone on to be very popular among music schools as a student show because of the quality of its music and the opportunities it offers to student singers.

Cultural Influence

  • An original cast album from the 1974 cast of Candide was recorded and given a commercial release.


  • In addition to the Tony Awards it won, Candide (1974) also garnered four performance nominations for members of its cast.
  • In 1999, John Caird adapted and revised Candide again, this time for the Royal National Theatre. His adaptation expands on the one-act 1974 version, adding characters, rearranging scenes and putting back songs that had been lost along the way. Richard Wilbur also contributed new lyrics. This 1999 version is licensed by MTI as well.
  • Although the show itself was not commercially successful at the time, the 1956 cast recording of Candide led critics and musical theatre fans to a new appreciation of the score, which ultimately helped it live on until the 1974 revisions that gave the show a new and lasting breath.
  • The sole element of Hellman's original 1956 Candide libretto that remained was her name (Maximilian) for Cunegonde's brother. (The character has no given name in Voltaire's novella.)

Critical Reaction

"A scintillating score, a brilliant pastiche... the century's wittiest operetta score. It is spirited and richly melodic."
– Daily News

"Enormous fun.... Bright moments burst out all over the theatre."
– Newsday

"Marvelous musicality and thoughtfully conjured, eye-pleasing entertainment."
– Washington Post

"Penetrating and significant... a compelling and effective drama. It is a burlesque and a romp that leads, through its maze of misdirection, to a penetrating conclusion. After such a wild ride, it is surprising to so touchingly arrive at a dramatic destination; it is all the more gripping for doing so."
– Boston Arts Diary

"A glorious score... an exhilarating ride."

Tony® Award

1957 - Conductor And Musical Director, Nominee (Samuel Krachmalnick)
1957 - Costume Designer, Nominee (Irene Sharaff)
1957 - Musical, Nominee (Lillian Hellman (book), Leonard Bernstein (music), Richard Wilbur (lyrics), Ethel Linder Reiner in association with Lester Osterman, Jr. (producers))
1957 - Scenic Design, Winner (Oliver Smith)
1957 - Supporting Or Featured Musical Actress, Nominee (Irra Petina)
1957 - Costume Designer, Nominee (Irene Sharaff)
1974 - Supporting Actress In A Musical Play, Nominee (June Gable)
1974 - Best Scenic Design, Winner (Eugene Lee & Franne Lee)
1974 - Best Costume Design, Winner (Franne Lee)
1974 - Best Direction Of A Musical, Winner (Harold Prince)
1974 - Actor (Musical), Nominee (Lewis J. Stadlen)
1974 - Book Of A Musical, Winner (Hugh Wheeler)
1974 - Best Book Of A Musical, Winner (Hugh Wheeler)
1974 - Costume Designer, Winner (Franne Lee)
1974 - Best Actor in a Musical, Nominee (Lewis J. Stadlen)
1974 - Director Of A Musical Play, Winner (Harold Prince)
1974 - Best Featured Actor in a Musical, Nominee (Mark Baker)
1974 - Scenic Design, Winner (Franne and Eugene Lee)
1974 - Best Featured Actress in a Musical, Nominee (Maureen Brennan)
1974 - Supporting Actor In A Musical Play, Nominee (Mark Baker)
1974 - Best Featured Actress in a Musical, Nominee (June Gable)
1997 - Actor (Musical), Nominee (Jim Dale)
1997 - Costume Design, Winner (Judith Dolan)
1997 - Featured Actress (Musical), Nominee (Andrea Martin)
1997 - Musical Revival, Nominee (Livent (U.S.) Inc. (producer))
1997 - Best Revival Of A Musical, Nominee (Candide)
1997 - Best Actor in a Musical, Nominee (Jim Dale)
1997 - Best Featured Actress in a Musical, Nominee (Andrea Martin)
1997 - Best Costume Design, Winner (Judith Dolan)

Drama Desk Award

1974 - Outstanding Director, Winner (Harold Prince)
1974 - Outstanding Choreography, Winner (Patricia Birch)
1974 - Outstanding Costume Design, Winner (Franne Lee)
1974 - Outstanding Director, Winner (Harold Prince)
1974 - Outstanding Set Design, Winner (Eugene Lee)
1974 - Outstanding Set Design, Winner (Franne Lee)
1974 - Outstanding Book of a Musical, Winner (Hugh Wheelrer)
1974 - Outstanding Book of a Musical, Winner (Hugh Wheeler)
1997 - Outstanding Actor in a Musical, Nominee (Jason Danieley)
1997 - Best Featured Actress in a Musical, Nominee (Andrea Martin)
1997 - Outstanding Actor in a Musical, Nominee (Jason Danieley)
1997 - Outstanding Actor in a Musical, Nominee (Jim Dale)
1997 - Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical, Nominee (Andrea Martin)
1997 - Outstanding Revival of a Musical, Nominee (Candide)
1997 - Outstanding Set Design of a Musical, Nominee (Clarke Dunham)

Theatre World Award

1974 - Best Debut Peformance, Winner (Maureen Brennan)
1974 - Best Debut Performance, Winner (Mark Baker)
1997 - Outstanding New Performer, Winner (Jason Danieley)

NY Drama Critics Circle Award

1974 - Best Musical, Winner (Candide)



Based on the book by Voltaire.


You must give the authors/creators billing credits, as specified in the Production Contract, in a conspicuous manner on the first page of credits in all programs and on houseboards, displays and in all other advertising announcements of any kind.
Percentages listed indicate required type size in relation to title size.
Music by
Book adapted from Voltaire by
Lyrics by
With additional Lyrics by STEPHEN SONDHEIM and JOHN LATOUCHE
Produced on Broadway by The Chelsea Theatre Center of Brooklyn
in conjunction with HAROLD PRINCE and RUTH MITCHELL
Broadway Production Conceived and Directed by HAROLD PRINCE

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