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Kristin Chenoweth Withdraws from ENO Candide

Tony Award-winning Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth (pictured) has withdrawn from this summer’s English National Opera production of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, which runs at the London Coliseum for a limited season of 13 performances from 23 June (See News, 2 Jan 2008). An ENO statement explains that the star is no longer able to appear “due to unforeseen television filming commitments following the resolution of the Hollywood writers strike”.

Chenoweth was due to make her ENO debut as Cunegonde, a role she has previously sung in a New York Philharmonic production of Candide. At the Coliseum, she will now be replaces for some performances (23, 25, 27, 28 and 29 June) by Anna Christy, with casting for other dates announced shortly. American soprano Christy recently made her UK opera debut in ENO’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor.

In other casting updates, Beverley Klein (just seen in Fiddler on the Roof in the West End, for which she was Whatsonstage.com Award-nominated) will play the Old Woman, joining the previously announced Toby Spence in the title role and Alex Jennings, making his opera house debut as Doctor Pangloss/Voltaire (See News, 9 Jan 2008).

Chenoweth is best known on Broadway for originating the role of ‘good witch’ Glinda in Wicked, while her other stage credits include The Fantasticks, A New Brain, Epic Proportions, Strike Up the Band, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever and You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, for which she won her Tony as Sally Brown. She has also recorded two solo albums. Her screen credits include The West Wing, Pushing Daisies, Ugly Betty, Kristin and Bewitched.

Candide tells the story of a young man, Candide, who is determined to follow his instructor's creed of mindless optimism. Even after being banished from his homeland, captured by Bulgarians, beaten by the Spanish Inquisition, robbed of everything he owns, and torn repeatedly from the woman he loves, Candide still clings to the philosophy that everything is for the best in this, "the best of all possible worlds." He and his friends eventually find themselves seeking guidance from the Wisest Man in the World - a ghost from their past who has a surprising revelation for them!

Based on Voltaire's novel, Candide first opened on Broadway in 1956 at the Martin Beck Theatre and was last seen in London in a 1999 National Theatre production starring Daniel Evans. The musical has music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Richard Wilbur with additional lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, John Latouche, Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker and Leonard Bernstein. The book is by Hugh Wheeler, with the new politically charged version by director Robert Carsen and Ian Burton.

The co-production was mounted at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris back in 2006 and at La Scala in Milan last year. La Scala initially cancelled the run of the piece because it was reportedly not "in line with artistic programming", some suggesting that a caricature of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi in it being too controversial. After changes were made, the production was reinstated at La Scala where it ran last summer with a different cast.

Candide is choreographed by Rob Ashford (Parade), who is also making his ENO debut. It’s designed by Michael Levine, with costumes by Buki Shiff and lighting by Robert Carsen and Peter Van Praet. Rumon Gamba conducts.

- by Terri Paddock


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