I wouldn't part with the Original (1957) Broadway cast recording for anything, especially because of Robert Rounseville's Candide and Barbara Cook's stunning Cunegonde. But that's not to say one shouldn't own this 1997 revival recording as well. Fans of the show know there are at least four different incarnations of CANDIDE, including Bernstein's final revision in 1989, and what's wrong with having all of them?
The first revision was the celebrated "Chelsea version" of 1974, with a new book by Hugh Wheeler and some new (and some revised) lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The actor playing Dr. Pangloss also plays Voltaire, the Governor, the Host, and the Sage. A new opening number, "Life Is Happiness Indeed," ". . . comically [establishes] the central characters' innocence and naivete." The parts of Maximillian and Paquette have been expanded, and it is not Cunegonde, but Maximillian (in drag) who sings "My Love" with the lecherous Governor. "Quiet" is out and "Sheep's Song" is in. Also deleted are "Words, Words, Words," "Money, Money, Money," "We Are Women," and "Nothing More Than This." (For a more complete version, check out the Scottish Opera version, the 1999 Royal National Cast version, or Bernstein's "final revised edition" of 1989.)
In this 1997 revival, The Old Lady (a wonderful characterization by Andrea Martin) cleverly insinuates herself into the plot, early in act one, informing Pangloss (and the audience) of her central role in the proceedings. It also includes considerable narration, by the author Voltaire, to move the plot along.
What about the singers? Jim Dale is truly fine in his multiple roles and Jason Danieley sings the socks off Candide's songs. Very exciting performance. Harolyn Blackwell has a gorgeous voice (see Byron Kolln's review), but her tone quality is a little heavy for my taste, making her Cunegonde sound more worldly than Barbara Cook's. Even though she's been repeatedly raped and has become the mistress to both the Grand Inquisitor and The Rich Jew, Cook's Cunegonde remains a virgin to the very end. Stacey Logan is a perky Paquette, and Brent Barrett is a wonderfully-vain Maximilian.
If you're a CANDIDE junkie, then you need to own this recording, as well as the "original" original cast. I also own the Musical Heritage Society's highlights from the 1988 Scottish Opera, which I find lifeless and dull. It was recorded during rehearals for the production, which makes me believe it is NOT to be compared to the "complete" recording (That's Entertainment) that John Kendrick admires.
But as I said before: Can one have too many versions of Bernstein's Broadway masterpiece? I think not.