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Candide! Can Do!

Daniel Reichard and Richard Kind transition from Broadway to opera in the NYCO's Candide. logo
Daniel Reichard and Richard Kind
in Candide
(© Carol Rosegg)
When New York City Opera's popular production of Candide returns to the repertory, April 8-20, it will have a number of popular theater performers in the cast, notably Lauren Worsham as the not-so-innocent Cunegonde and Judith Blazer as the scene-stealing Old Lady. Not to mention the production's top-lined stars, Jersey Boys alum Daniel Reichard, who plays the title role, and stage and television favorite Richard Kind, who plays the narrator, Dr. Pangloss -- and a host of other characters. These two talented men recently sat down with TheaterMania after a rehearsal to discuss the joys and challenges of working in the opera world.

THEATERMANIA: So what is the biggest difference between working at New York City Opera and working on Broadway?
DANIEL REICHARD: I think what's really interesting about the process is that you really are expected to come in ahead of your material in your preparation, because there are not music rehearsals. You might get a coaching here or there, but you really have to do a lot of the learning of the show on your own. Here, we started with a full sing-through and read-through on day one, and then the next day, we started staging the whole show from the beginning.
RICHARD KIND: Now, I didn't come prepared the way opera people do. I'll walk myself into the opera world, but I need to know where I stand on stage before I even start to work on anything, because all of that helps trigger what my, dare I say, motivation is. I had a handle on the music, but I sure didn't know it like everybody else. Another big difference for me is that they are very strict as far as what gets rehearsed and how, and there's no leeway. I happen to like a looser feeling. If you're going great guns, I think take the extra ten minutes and go over. Here, there are times even in the middle of an aria that if they don't call the break, there might be some people who get angry. I think it's outrageous.

TM Richard, is your job particularly hard because you're playing so many characters?
RK: Yeah, I haven't counted them all, but I'm going to guess I have over 24 costume changes. They're not difficult. Some are done onstage, some are really quick, and some I have some time to do -- but they are plentiful. And I've never really been wigged before. I had one on in Bounce, but you can't really call it a wig because it was so lightly put on and then it was ripped off. Not only is this a wig, but on top of this wig go six other wigs.

TM: What was your first exposure to Candide?
RK: I remember seeing it Off-Broadway in the 1970s and all I remember was seeing Lewis J. Stadlen, who played Pangloss, sleeping in a bed at the beginning of the show. I heard there was big news one night, because Katharine Hepburn was in the audience and she got into bed with him.
DR: I did this part at the University of Michigan. This lovely girl named Jessica Murphy was my Cunegonde, Barrett Foa was Pangloss, Celia Keenan-Bolger was Paquette, Alexander Gemignani was the Grand Inquisitor, and Courtney Balan was the Old Lady. It's so fantastic that so many of us have moved to New York City and have gone on to become working actors. It was the most special experience in my college days. Mark Simon, the casting director here, actually saw that production and that was sort of how he had the idea to bring me in. I don't think people who just saw me in Jersey Boys would have ever thought that I had this completely different side of me.

TM: Richard, how did you get involved in the production?
RK: Hal Prince, who's the original director of this production and who directed me in Bounce, saw me at the final dress rehearsal of LoveMusik and came up to me and goes, "Hey kid, has New York City Opera called you?" and I said, "No," and he goes, "Oh, you're doing Candide, and you'll be wonderful, you'll be wonderful." Then I don't hear from them for eight months.

J. Robert Spencer, John Lloyd Young, Daniel Reichard,
and Christian Hoff in Jersey Boys
(Photo © Joan Marcus)
TM: How important is the amplification in this kind of house?
DR: It's a different kind of amplification than I had at Jersey Boys, where there's reverb or enhancement. I can tell you there were days where I said please turn me up, I have no voice, but that won't happen here. It does nothing more than transfer the sound that's on stage, so we're really using our true sound. But amplification is also literally a necessity in this house, because if you stand up there with no microphone and just say something, the sound falls so flat because the opera house was built for the ballet.

TM: Daniel, you have two different Cunegondes, Lauren Worsham, who's primarily a theater actress, and Lielle Berman, who is a member of City Opera. What has that experience been like?
DR: What was kind of challenging about this rehearsal process, but very beneficial, is that they kept trading them out every 30 minutes, until a few days later when I did a full run-through with each of them. For a while, I was the envy of some of my friends, because I just got to take turns kissing these two girls. They are both very pretty and very talented, and very different. Lauren's interpretation is very detailed as far as pathos and emotions, and it's full of very intelligent eccentricities. On the other hand, Lielle's acting is much broader, which is going to be in some ways very useful in this enormous house. And I get to delight in each of their strengths per performance.

TM: Richard, what's most important to you about doing this show?
RK: I had two goals when I started this: I want to get laughs, which I don't know whether I will, and I really wanted to make sure that this story was clear to the audience, because I do remember not exactly being able to follow it when I first saw it. I am making sure that everybody understands this story the same way I do when I tell my six year old and my three year old twins a bedtime story.

TM: Daniel, what's the next step you envision in your career?
DR: My concert work has been picking up the last couple of years, and because of the success of Jersey Boys, I'm able to sing at everything from corporate events to private parties to state fairs, and that's how I'm trying to make a living the rest of this year. I do have some ideas for one big concert, maybe late this summer, even here at Lincoln Center, and also a possible recording. If I were to do another Broadway show soon, it would have to be a leading role in a new piece. But whatever is the right thing to happen next is going to happen. And right now, I feel this is an experience of a lifetime.

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