As part of the worldwide events that are celebrating Leonard Bernstein's centenary, BarricadeArts are teaming up with the Oxford Playhouse to present the composer's operatic masterpiece: 'Candide'. Here musical director Joe Davies talks about his journey into Candide and what his role requires...
‘Candide’ has been a project I have been affiliated with for over a year. First pitched to me by Jonny in Nando’s, of all places, the idea’s ambition and potential instantly struck me as reasons to get involved. I’d wanted to MD a Playhouse show for a long time, so when Jonny gave me the offer it was one that I couldn’t refuse.
The role of a Musical Director can vary from production to production; put most simply, however, it is his, her, or their job to oversee the musical side of the show. The aspect of being a Musical Director which I find the most interesting, but also the most difficult, is how varied it is. From working with the cast on the large choral numbers, rehearsing one-on-one with a lead on a solo song, or making sure the band are up to scratch, there really is never a dull moment. Even more complicated is the job of our Assistant Musical Director, Alex, who flips between playing piano for rehearsals, taking the rehearsals which I can’t be there for (usually because I’m in another, simultaneous Candide rehearsal), or rehearsing for his own role of the Governor.
The moment when I truly realised that Candide had the musical capacity to be a success was towards the end of the first rehearsal. Having worked through a variety of the harder choral numbers (I thought it would be a good idea to chuck them in at the deep end!), we decided to end with the show’s final number, ‘Make our Garden Grow’. The song is a long, drawn out crescendo to the end, building steadily from a moving love duet between Candide and Cunegonde to a huge, full cast climax. Even though it was only a first rehearsal, the sound that the cast members managed to muster at the end was quite something: people walking by must have wondered what on earth was going on! It was at that moment, though, that I realised that Candide had the potential to be something special: please come in early November to see if it is!