Voltaire’s Candide is a sharp satire of the French ruling class, the Age of Enlightenment, the naiveté of youth, and religion. Leonard Bernstein’s Candide is also about those things, but it’s a musical—which really makes it so much better. And so the Shakespeare Theatre Company has chosen the Bernstein adaptation as its first musical in Sidney Harman Hall. Aware of critiques of Bernstein’s bubbly work, director and adaptor Mary Zimmerman tweaks the original formula by fleshing out the supporting characters, spreading the storytelling duties among the 19-member cast rather than leaving them all to Candide’s mentor, Dr. Pangloss. Which, to borrow one of the musical’s best-known phrases, means you can finally have the best of all possible worlds.
CANDIDE IS ON STAGE AT 8 P.M. (ALSO SATURDAY AT 2 P.M. AND 8 P.M. AND SUNDAY AT 2 P.M. AND 7:30 P.M.) AT SIDNEY HARMAN HALL, 610 F ST. NW. $20-$108. (202) 547-1122.