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Visionary New Production of Classic Operetta Opens 2023-24 Season

Skylight Music Theatre Announces Cast, Creative Team for Leonard Bernstein’s Beloved Masterpiece Candide

Performances October 13 - 29, 2023

Milwaukee, Wis. (September 6, 2023) — Skylight Music Theatre announced the cast and creative team for the long-awaited production of Leonard Bernstein’s masterpiece, Candide. Delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Candide will now open the 2023-2024 season with direction, scenic design, and puppet design by visionary New York City designer, playwright, and director, James Ortiz.

Performances take place October 13 - 29 in the beautiful Cabot Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway, in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward. Skylight is Milwaukee’s professional Equity music theatre company.

Director James Ortiz Returns to Skylight

Candide marks Ortiz’s return to Skylight after wowing audiences with his astounding vision for Skylight’s production of Grétry’s opera, Beauty and the Beast (Zemire et Azor) in 2017, for which he directed and designed scenery and puppets. His memorable, larger-than-life Azor puppet was operated by four dancers. Ortiz recently created the puppet design for the 2022 Broadway revival of Into the Woods and earned the 2022 Drama Desk Award for his puppet design for Lincoln Center’s The Skin of Our Teeth. His acclaimed production of off-Broadway’s The Woodsman won him a 2016 Obie Award. Ortiz had begun work on the 2020 production of Skylight’s Candide when the pandemic shut down the process.

“Candide is one of the greatest gifts Leonard Bernstein and his co-artists bestowed upon the American Musical Theatre,” said Skylight Music Theatre Artistic Director Michael Unger. “We are delighted to kick off our 64th season with this beloved show and to welcome James Ortiz back, along with many Skylight favorites. James is one of the most innovative, inspired, and imaginative artists working in theatre today. He returns to Skylight to work his magic again, setting Candide in an explosively surreal and colorful 1950s setting, which will incorporate his signature, impressive puppetry design.” Based on Voltaire’s satire of innocence, optimism, and life’s unexpected lessons, Candide tells the story of two young people, their round-the-world romp, and their series of absurdly unfortunate events. Ortiz described Candide as “about the quest we all continually go on to become the best version of ourselves. The only way to do that demands that you peel back the layers of what you've been taught in order to form your own unique identity. We get to watch these characters of every age be forced to ‘grow up’ in sometimes heartbreaking and sometimes hilarious ways.”

‘Candide’ Setting Inspired by 1950s

He decided to set Candide “in a colorful, 1950s, Leave it to Beaver-style nuclear family setting, which then evolves over the course of the play into something a lot more complex, rich, funny and, hopefully, very human,” said Ortiz. “Fans of this story may be surprised by this choice of setting, but I would note that this is a musical adaptation of a satirical novella by the French wit, Voltaire, and was adapted in the 1950’s by Americans (including Leonard Bernstein and Dorothy Parker, wits in their own right) and who, like Voltaire, were actively lampooning the societal and political norms of the day.”

‘Candide’ Features Skylight Favorites and Debuts

Featuring an 8-piece orchestra, Candide’s music director will be Jeffrey Saver, making his Skylight debut. His extensive credits include Broadway productions of Allegiance, End of the Rainbow, Sister Act, Chicago, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George, The Secret Garden, The Rink, and A Chorus Line.

The production will be choreographed by Ryan Cappleman, who has choreographed Skylight productions including Hairspray (2018) and Urinetown, the Musical (2017), and performed in numerous Skylight shows.

Making their Skylight debuts in Candide are Sam Simahk (Candide), Sara Stern (Old Woman), and Molly Wiley (Ensemble). Returning to the Skylight stage will be Susie Robinson (Cunegonde), Andrew Varela (Pangloss), Doug Clemons (Maximillian), Samantha Sostarich (Paquette), Shawn Holmes (Cacambo), Ben George (Martin), Nathan Marinan (Vanderdendur), and Lydia Rose Eiche (Ensemble).

‘Candide’ in Skylight & Broadway History

Bridging the gap between musicals and opera, Candide holds a special place in Skylight history, having been produced twice at Skylight’s old space on Jefferson Street. This is its first time on the Cabot stage.

Candide opened on Broadway in 1956 and underwent a series of Broadway revivals under the direction of Harold Prince. In 1974 Prince commissioned a new, one-act book from Hugh Wheeler, and Bernstein continued to make edits until his final revised version premiered in 1989.

“Candide, the operetta, has had a journey nearly as fraught with trials and tribulations as its titular hero,” said Unger. “Through all of its productions and permutations, it has gathered 10 legendary writers and Candide received five Tony awards including Best Book and Best Musical Revival, five Drama Desk Awards, and two Laurence Olivier Awards.” Skylight will be presenting London’s National Theatre version, which reimagines this masterwork by combining several previous versions.

The Washington Post applauded Candide’s “marvelous musicality,” and The New York Times called it “an undiluted triumph, dazzling, a real rarity!” Entertainment Weekly said it was “melodically warm and shining,” while Variety praised “Bernstein’s lovely operetta score” as “a continually elegant and witty pastiche.”

Candide Executive Producer Sponsors are Jan Serr and John Shannon. The show is recommended for ages 13 and up.

Candide Oct. 13 - 29, 2023 The Royal National Theatre Version Music by Leonard Bernstein Book Adapted from Voltaire by Hugh Wheeler In a New Version by John Caird Lyrics by Richard Wilbur Additional Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, John Latouche, Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker, and Leonard Bernstein Choreographed by Ryan Cappleman Music Direction by Jeffrey Saver Directed, Scenic Design, and Puppet Design by James Ortiz Executive Producer Sponsors Jan Serr & John Shannon

‘Candide’ Creative Team Director…………………………………………….…… James Ortiz Music Director……………………….....….…….. Jeffrey Saver Choreographer………………………..…… Ryan Cappleman Scenic and Puppet Designer……….………. James Ortiz Costume Designer………………..…….….…… Shima Orans Lighting Designer…………..………......……… Maaz Ahmed Sound Designer…………….……………………. Chad Parsley

‘Candide’ Cast Candide………………………..…………...………… Sam Simahk* Cunegonde..………………..………….………. Susie Robinson Old Woman…………………..………….………………. Sara Stern Pangloss………………………….……...………. Andrew Varela* Maximillian……………….……….………….…… Doug Clemons Paquette………………….…..…..………. Samantha Sostarich Cacambo………….……..………..………………. Shawn Holmes Martin…………………….....…….…....…………....... Ben George Vanderdendur.………..……………………… Nathan Marinan

Ensemble Molly Wiley, Lydia Rose Eiche

*Appearing through an agreement between Skylight Music Theatre and Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

James Ortiz Biography

James Ortiz (Director, Scenic Design, Puppet Design). Based in New York City, Ortiz is a cross-disciplinary designer, performer, writer, and director best known for his Off-Broadway creation, The Woodsman, which earned him a 2016 Obie Award for puppet design. He returns to Skylight after serving as Director/ Scenic and Puppet Designer for Beauty and the Beast (Zemire et Azor) in 2017. Most recently, Ortiz created the puppet design for the 2022 Broadway revival of Into the Woods, where his interpretation of Milky White became a viral sensation. He earned the 2022 Drama Desk Award for his enormous dinosaur puppets from Lincoln Center’s Tony-nominated production of The Skin of Our Teeth. His gigantic puppet designs graced Central Park's Delacorte Theater in the Disney/Public Works production of Hercules. Previous credits include The Public Theatre, Yale Rep, Carnegie Melon University, Dallas Theatre Center, Theatre for a New Audience, Shakespeare Theatre of DC, Opera Saratoga, Soho Rep, and Naked Angels, among others. James is a 2017 Eugene O'Neill residency recipient, 2015 and 2019 Jim Henson Foundation Grant awardee and Co-Founder of the devised theatre group, Strangemen & Co. BA

Performance Information Performances of Candide are Friday, October 13 through Sunday, October 29, 2023, in the beautiful Cabot Theatre, Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway in the Historic Third Ward of Milwaukee.

Box Office

Skylight 2023-24 Season subscriptions are now on sale. Subscribers get the best seats at the best prices.


Purchase at the Broadway Theatre Center Box Office.

Call (414) 291-7800

Visit 158 N. Broadway (Hours are Monday – Saturday Noon to 6 p.m.)


Please let the Box Office know if accessible seating is needed, or if patrons will have a wheelchair or walker.

  • The Box Office window is also open two hours prior to performances.

  • Group discounts are available for parties of 10 or more by calling (414) 291-7800.

  • If you have ADA needs, please contact the Box Office (414) 291-7800 or tickets@skylightmusictheatre.org.

  • Skylight offers a risk-free guarantee to exchange, credit, or refund tickets for any canceled performances.

  • For more information visit www.skylightmusictheatre.org or email info@skylightmusictheatre.org

Special Events

Skylight Insights. In-depth discussions with Artistic Director, Michael Unger and special guests take place one hour before all Wednesday and Sunday performances.

ASL Performance. Candide will be interpreted in American Sign Language on Thursday, October 19, 2023, at 7:30 p.m. To purchase tickets for this performance, email tickets@skylightmusictheatre.org or call Skylight Music Theatre's Box Office at (414) 291-7800. Mention ASL performance for seating in the appropriate section. Supported by UPAF Connect.

For more information visit www.skylightmusictheatre.org, email info@skylightmusictheatre.org or call the Box Office at (414) 291-7800.

Skylight Bar & Bistro

Conveniently located on the second floor of the Broadway Theatre Center, the Skylight Bar & Bistro is open two hours prior to showtime and features a pre-theatre menu by Noble Catering.

Parking

Purchase $5 parking vouchers from the Broadway Theatre Center Box office for use in the Historic Third Ward parking garage at 212 N. Milwaukee Street (one block east and one block north). Vouchers are valid between 5 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. for evening performances. Matinee vouchers are valid from 12-5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Not valid for Wednesday matinees. Voucher sales stop 30 minutes before showtime. Advance purchase is recommended so that vouchers can be mailed with tickets. No refunds. Meter parking is available on the street (free after 6 p.m. and on Sundays).

Sponsors

Skylight thanks season sponsors United Performing Arts Fund, Wisconsin Arts Board, and CAMPAC – the Milwaukee County Arts Fund. Executive Producer Sponsors for Candide are Jan Serr and John Shannon. Additional sponsorships are available. Please contact development@skylightmusictheatre.org

Health & Safety Protocols

Skylight Music Theatre has joined other Milwaukee performing arts organizations in lifting Covid-19 safety protocols. Masks are optional. Health and safety protocols may be revised pending updated government and CDC guidelines. Skylight offers a risk-free guarantee to exchange, credit, or refund tickets for any canceled performances. For up-to-date information, please visit www.skylightmusictheatre.org/health.

About Skylight Music Theatre

Founded in 1959, Skylight is Milwaukee’s professional Equity music theatre company and the state's largest employer of Wisconsin actors. Skylight produces the full range of music theatre from blockbuster Broadway musicals to reimagined operas, and from exciting world premieres to contemporary off-Broadway hits. Skylight’s mainstage home is the Cabot Theatre in the Broadway Theatre Center, which was built by Skylight in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward in 1992. Considered to be one of Milwaukee’s most beautiful theatres, the Cabot Theatre is based on the design of an 18th-century French opera house. With just 350 seats it offers audiences great views of the action onstage and an undeniable connection with the performers. Skylight Music Theatre marks its 64th season in 2023-2024. Skylight Music Theatre is a proud Cornerstone Member of the United Performing Arts Fund.

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