REVIEW: Candide in Concert (Cadogan Hall) ★★★★★

Candide Cadogan Hall

In another spectacular concert evening, London Musical Theatre Orchestra (LMTO) presents Candide in concert at Cadogan Hall – an extraordinary one-night-only performance starring James Dreyfuss, Rob Houchen and Anna O’Byrne.

The talent on the wonderfully intimate stage of Cadogan Hall was breathtaking. The LMTO were allowed to shine magnificently throughout the evening, led by the brilliantly charismatic Freddie Tapner who may be the most expressive, emotive and enthusiastic conductor I’ve ever had the pleasure to see.

Behind the orchestra sat a choir of twenty-four men and women who supported the principal performers through this superbly “bonkers” work. Music by Leonard Bernstein, book by Hugh Wheeler after Voltaire and lyrics by Richard Wilbur with additional lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, John La Touche, Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker and Leonard Bernstein: Candide, in short, tells the tale of idealistic optimism in a young man faced with sequences of outrageously misfortunate events. He travels the world narrowly escaping death at every turn, at one point is caught in a shipwreck, then exiled, cheated out of a bountiful fortune… the list goes on!

Houchen played the title character and did so with endearing innocence. Every word he sang was engrossing: his eyes telling as much of the story as the lyrics he sang so beautifully. As his betrothed Cunegonde, Anna O’Byrne was sensational. Her exceptional range was showcased to perfection, particularly in the solo “Glitter and Be Gay” which brought members of the audience to their feet in the middle of the act. She rendered me absolutely speechless and left me with tears streaming down my face in disbelief of the phenomenal vocal I had just heard. Throughout the evening, she was a scene-stealing marvel.

As Dr Pangloss, Candide’s teacher and friend, was the Olivier Award winning actor of stage and screen – James Dreyfus. He was wonderfully funny and witty; making the audience feel at absolute ease whenever he was on stage. He doubled up as the narrator for the evening and added great humour with wonderful personal touches to the script and libretto.

The evening was a smashing success and to be a one-night-only performance upsets me as I would love to experience the evening again and again. The entire audience stood for a lengthy applause at the end of the night: a just reflection of the incredible performances given.

Within ten minutes, it was clear this was going to be a five-star evening. Rousing, emotional and yet still fabulously funny – one of the best night’s out I’ve had at the theatre this year. I simply cannot wait to see what LMTO do next.

Reviewed by Harriet Langdown