Prossy Garnett arrives at the office of her employer, Anglican minister and ChristianSocialist James Mavor Morell, to prepare for the day’s work (“A Fine October Morning”).Morell has just received an urgent missive from the Guild of St. Matthew asking himto reconsider his decision to cancel a speech that evening. He has done so in orderto spend the evening with his wife, Candida, who is returning for just one night fromtheir country home, where she has been with their children. Morell’s curate, Lexy Mills,arrives (tardily as usual) and upon studying the letter announces that the only replacementthat can be found is the president of the Agnostic League, who insists on thedivorce of socialism from Christianity. This being contrary to everything Morell standsfor, he reverses his decision to not speak and prepares his speech (“Sermon”).Morell reconciles with spending only the afternoon with his wife (“Candida’s ComingHome”), who arrives accompanied by a young poet (and nephew to an Earl), EugeneMarchbanks. Marchbanks, Lexy and Morell are all captivated by Candida’s charm,while Prossy alone is unimpressed (“Enchantment” / “In Response”). Morell asksMarchbanks to stay for lunch, but the poet explains that Candida asked him to leave,though he doesn’t understand why. Morell tries delicately to infer that a husband andwife who haven’t seen each other for a while might like privacy for conjugal reasons.Marchbanks is horrified, and professes his love for Candida, and a sparring matchresults (The First Preaching Match: “The Love of a Fool” / “Kingdom of Heaven” / “Is ItLike This for Her Here Always?”). When Marchbanks compares Morell to King David,dancing naked before the ark of God, whipping his followers into a frenzy but foolishin front of his wife, Morell snaps and attacks Marchbanks, who cowers in fear butdeclares that while he is afraid of violence he is not afraid of a clergyman’s ideas, andwill fight them.
After lunch, Marchbanks inadvertently changes the settings on Prossy’s typewriter justas she walks in. She playfully suggests he thinks of the typewriter as a machine thatcan make love letters at the turn of a handle. Recognizing a capacity for poetry andlove in Prossy, Marchbanks senses a kindred spirit and implores her to open up to him(“Shy, Shy, Shy”). Prossy reveals that she is in fact in love with Morell. Having believedit impossible for a woman to truly love the minister, Marchbanks is crushed to realizeCandida may indeed love her husband.
Alone together for the first time that day, Candida begins teasing Morell, telling himthat he works too hard; that his congregants don’t really listen to his words anyway;that women come to his sermons only because he is so handsome; and that she thinksMarchbanks is about to fall in love with her (“Isn’t He Foolish?”). When she kissesMorell, he views it as a Judas kiss and begins raving. Marchbanks runs in to see whatis wrong, and Candida, embarrassed, busies herself filling the lamps. Marchbankstells Candida that he would take her far away from her daily routine (“Shallops andScrubbing Brushes”), and Morell, seeing his wife’s delight in Marchbanks, announcesthat he is off to give his speech (“Off to the Guild of St. Matthew”), leaving Candidaalone with Marchbanks in a test of their marriage.
In the twilight, Eugene reads poetry to Candida. He places his head in her lap andcalls her by her first name, and she, believing this to be an innocent and naive declarationof love, gently navigates him through the moment with kindness and integrity,teaching him that he can love her without shame and that she can love him back withoutcompromising her marriage vows (“At the Gate of Heaven” / “Candida, Candida!”).When Morell returns he demands that Marchbanks tell him what has happened inhis absence (“The Second Preaching Match”). Marchbanks claims that he seeks onlyCandida’s happiness, but Morell doubts the poet understands her. Prossy and Lexyburst in, quite tipsy, their animosity toward each other having become quite the opposite,raising the temperature in the room (“Champagne”). Morell declares that his wifemust choose between himself and Marchbanks, and Candida plays along (“The Bidsfor Candida”). After Morell offers his strengths and Marchbanks his frailties, Candidamakes her choice (“Spoiled from the Cradle”). Marchbanks, knowing he has lost, claimshe carries a greater secret in his heart and disappears “Into the Night,” leaving Candidaand Morell to embrace, while the question of the poet’s secret still lingers.
Cast Size: Medium (5-21). Vocal Demands: Challenging. Dance Requirements: Minimal. Good For: College/University • Amateur/Community • Professional Theatre.
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Written By: CHARLES ISHERWOOD
Small stirrings of the heart and mind evoke delicate musical responses in “A Minister’s Wife,” the lovingly composed chamber musical that opened on Sunday night at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. Based on “Candida,” George Bernard Shaw’s comedy about the mysteries of marital love, the musical moves with a gentle step, keeping an intimate focus on its central characters as they circle one another in a cozy London study that becomes the site of a well-mannered moral and intellectual boxing match.
Conceived and directed by Michael Halberstam, and originally seen at the Writers’ Theater outside Chicago, the show features intricately textured music by Joshua Schmidt, co-author of the terrific musical version of Elmer Rice’s “Adding Machine” that was seen Off Broadway several seasons ago. Jan Levy Tranen supplies the literate lyrics, mostly unrhymed and firmly grounded in Shaw’s words, and Austin Pendleton wrote the smartly condensed book.
The cast is splendid: Kate Fry, who starred in the premiere production, portrays Shaw’s Candida. Marc Kudisch is her upstanding husband, the Rev. James Mavor Morell, and Bobby Steggert (“Ragtime”) plays the ardent young poet Eugene Marchbanks, whose infatuation with Candida stirs trouble in the Morell ménage. (Mr. Pendleton has eliminated the comic role of Candida’s mercenary businessman father.)
Mr. Kudisch sings with an aptly robust, rich tone the role of James, the civic-minded minister whose dedication to his work earns him the fervid admiration of his young curate, the Rev. Alexander Mill (a droll Drew Gehling), and the unspoken adoration of his secretary, Prossy (Liz Baltes, brimming with feistiness). Although his accent tends to slip back and forth across the Atlantic, Mr. Kudisch captures both the character’s innate goodness and his egoism, a satisfaction he takes in leading his small flock of devoted followers.
As James composes the soaring rhetoric for yet another speech aimed at bringing the working man into the Christian fold, both Alexander and Prossy join him in a ringing call to arms: “The truest joy in life rests in one purpose: To change the world!” The song combines the uplift of hymn with the vigorous urgency of a national anthem, exemplifying the public-spirited preoccupations that have led James to let his marriage to Candida take care of itself.
While James is busy preparing for his newest attempt to shape destiny, he is slow to understand that the arrival of the poet Eugene threatens to alter his own. Possessed with the need to declare his affections before his beloved’s husband, Eugene accuses James of showering empty rhetoric on his public and suffocating his wife with his selfishness. With his glowering pout and beseeching eyes, Mr. Steggert’s Eugene radiates outrage and agony in equal measures as he and James engage in an increasingly tense musical debate about the truth of James and Candida’s marriage. Is it the solid, loving partnership James has always assumed it to be, or a soul trap for Candida’s great spirit, void of “reality, truth and freedom”? Eugene also debates the nature and necessity of love with Prossy, in a sequence that is among the show’s musical highlights, and contains some of Ms. Tranen’s finest lyrics: “When love is spoken, love is returned./Love unspoken is love unearned.”
Although it is scored for just a handful of instruments, with piano and cello dominant, Mr. Schmidt’s music has ample texture and variety. The show is not through-composed, but the score weaves itself in and out of the drama so gently that the seams rarely show. The musical language sometimes takes on a waltzing lilt in ensemble songs that evoke the scintillating Stephen Sondheim score for “A Little Night Music,” but Mr. Schmidt often uses spikier, more dissonant colorings when Eugene’s tense misery is doing combat with James’s increasingly ruffled complacency. Even when the characters are not singing, a few somber notes from the cello or a sprinkling of piano arpeggios give us subtle intimations of the inner turbulence in their souls.
As in the original play, Candida, portrayed with quiet warmth by Ms. Fry, remains an elusive figure, absent for much of the action as she ministers to the household and sees to the making of meals. She does preside at the musical’s climax, when she mockingly calls for both men to “bid” for her affections, since both assume that her destiny must lie with one of them. Ms. Fry performs the aria in which Candida explains her choice with a touching ardency.
The reflective tone of “A Minister’s Wife” is a stylistic far cry from the sweeping romance and jaunty humor of “My Fair Lady,” that most celebrated and successful musical adaptation of a Shaw play. In truth they do not really inhabit the same theatrical universe. “My Fair Lady” transforms Shaw’s heady dialectics into hearty popular entertainment. The creators of “A Minister’s Wife” are aiming for something closer to the original, allowing music to give emotional accents to the story without interrupting the easy flow of the drama with discrete musical sequences. If “My Fair Lady” is a festive banquet at which the Champagne never stops flowing, this modestly scaled new musical would be a satisfying afternoon tea.
A MINISTER’S WIFE
Book by Austin Pendleton, based on the play “Candida” by George Bernard Shaw; music and orchestrations by Joshua Schmidt; lyrics by Jan Levy Tranen; conceived and directed by Michael Halberstam; sets by Allen Moyer; costumes by David Zinn; lighting by Keith Parham; sound by Scott Stauffer; music supervisor, Richard Carsey; conductor, Timothy Splain; stage manager, Jennifer Rae Moore; associate producer, Ira Weitzman; general manager, Adam Siegel; production manager, Jeff Hamlin. Presented by Lincoln Center Theater, under the direction of André Bishop and Bernard Gersten. At the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, Lincoln Center; (212) 239-6200; lct.org. Through June 12. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes.
WITH: Liz Baltes (Proserpine Garnett), Kate Fry (Candida), Drew Gehling (the Rev. Alexander Mill), Marc Kudisch (the Rev. James Mavor Morell) and Bobby Steggert (Eugene Marchbanks).
Written By: Rober Hurwitt , June 27, 2013
Forget movies, comic books and pop-group song catalogs. Maybe it's time more musicals began mining the plays of George Bernard Shaw. Look at what Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe achieved with "Pygmalion."
"A Minister's Wife," the musical take on Shaw's "Candida" receiving its West Coast premiere at San Jose Repertory, isn't in the same league as "My Fair Lady" - nor does it aspire to be. Witty, evocatively tuneful and brightly performed, it succeeds very well on its own chamber-musical terms. The adaptation not only heightens the emotional intensity of what's at stake, but also does so without sacrificing Shaw's social context and political ideas.
Every element in "A Minister's Wife" enhances the focus on the central dilemma - as the beauteous, much-admired Candida (golden-toned Sharon Rietkerk) is forced to choose between her brilliant but somewhat stuffy husband, the Rev. Morell (sonorous baritone Christopher Vettel) and the handsome, passionate young poet Marchbanks (seductive tenor Tim Homsley), who adores her.
Austin Pendleton's radically but intelligently condensed book and Jan Levy Tranen's lyrics borrow as heavily from Shaw's witty, cogent dialogue as Lerner did, and not only from "Candida." Given that Morell is a crusading Christian socialist, it's a delight to hear him cop revolutionary maxims from Shaw's "Man and Superman" as well.
Composer Joshua Schmidt, whose brilliant musicalization of Elmer Rice's "The Adding Machine" still hasn't been seen here, segues seamlessly from talk-song settings of Shaw's dialogue into achingly soft or resonant arias. Each character has a distinct musical vocabulary, from Morell's hymn-infused oratory to the romantic strains of Marchbanks' effusions, all beautifully handled by the cast and musical director Dolores Duran-Cefalu's piano, violin, cello and bass clarinet quartet.
Handsomely framed in an Arts and Crafts drawing room, the action and ideas ebb and flow with musical precision as staged by Michael Halberstam - who conceived the project and directed its widely praised Illinois Writers' Theatre and Lincoln Center outings.
The bustle and tensions of the household come vividly alive in Vettel's work with the delightful Liz Baltes, from the original productions, as his devoted and at times incisively, melodically sarcastic secretary. Vettel and Homsley's rivalry simmers organically, catching the preacher by surprise, and expands to engulf us in its tensions.
Rietkerk's shimmering performance invests us in the outcome and our minds in its Shavian ideal - though she also makes us wish the authors had given her more to do earlier on. Her Candida is the heart and soul of an increasingly engaging show.
Written By: Karen D'Souza , June 27, 2013
It's hard not to fall in love with "A Minister's Wife."
Conceived and directed by Michael Halberstam, this enchanting musical version of George Bernard Shaw's "Candida" has the audience smitten within minutes. Joshua Schmidt's delicate music and Jan Levy Tranen's smart lyrics capture both the intellectual and the romantic allure of this heady love triangle.
Make no mistake, this is a lovely 100-minute gem of a chamber musical that bears little resemblance to the brash spectacles of which Broadway is so fond. But its intimacy and nuance are definitely part of its charm. Exquisitely calibrated by Halberstam in its West Coast premiere at San Jose Rep, "Wife" captures the untamed yearnings of the heart.
The richly layered score perfectly captures this universe of unrequited longing and existential regret. The intricate melodies set this drama of ideas alight, weaving warmth and yearning into intellectual battles that might otherwise seem dry.
Shaw, who despised bourgeois convention, created a household of souls stirred by passions they can't stifle. The playwright intended a "counter blast to Ibsen's 'Doll's House,' " because here it is the men who are the dolls. Austin Pendleton's elegant book nails the tone of the original text while letting the music breathe on its own.
This is a love triangle where everyone loses one thing to gain another. No sooner does the winsome Candida (Sharon Rietkerk) return home to London to spend a few precious hours with her husband, the upstanding reverend (Christopher Vettel) than he rushes out the door to tend to his flock. A firebrand socialist preacher, he believes he must save the world from the evils of capitalism. While he is at first only too pleased that their young friend Eugene Marchbanks (Tim Homsley) is willing to keep her company, this man of the cloth soon comes to realize that there is a fierce battle being waged for love and loyalty and he is not as strong a warrior as he thinks.
Their romantic struggle is echoed by those outside the triangle as well, such as the minister's tightly wound secretary Prossy (Liz Baltes) and his toadying assistant Lexy (Jarrod Zimmerman). Each feels deeply for someone they shouldn't so they bury their attraction in Victorian propriety.
Rietkerk glows in the title role, giving Candida both wit and sparkle. While this character is famously elusive, Rietkerk fleshes out the motivations leading to her heart-melting final choice in "I Am to Choose, Am I?" and "Spoiled from the Cradle."
Vettel is magnetic as the complacent vicar who courts his parishioners more passionately than his wife. Staunch in his beliefs about the world, he never suspects that others might be swayed by emotion.
Homsley takes a few beats to find his stride as the pouty Marchbanks, the boyish poet who pitches woo while the minister's back is turned, but he beautifully embodies the smugness of youth.
Baltes, who performed in the show's original staging, gives Prossy just the right mixture of fussiness and fire. Her tipsy aria to "Champagne" is a delight.
The text and music are so deftly interwoven that you barely notice the segues between moments of dialogue and song. The musicians are also seated onstage so that every piercing chord hits home.
The standoffs between these three lovebirds are as explosive as the show's ending is ambiguous. Part of the allure of the piece is that nothing is ever simple when it comes to feelings. Unlike that more famous musical based on a Shaw classic, "My Fair Lady," this show revels in its wistfulness. There is always a note of doubt lingering in the air which makes this waltz all the more bittersweet.
Contact Karen D'Souza at 408-271-3772. Read her at www.mercurynews.com/karen-dsouza, follow her at Twitter.com/KarenDSouza4 and like her at Facebook.com/Dsouzatheaterpage.
'A MINISTER'S WIFE'
Book by Austin Pendleton, music by Joshua Schmidt, lyrics by Jan Levy Tranen; based on Shaw's "Candida"
Through: July 14 Where: San Jose Rep, 101 Paseo de San Antonio Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes (no intermission)
Tickets: $29-$74, 408-367-7255. www.sjrep.org
Written By: Bobby Kennedy, Writers' Theatre Literary Manager
Having ended more than a century ago, the society of Victorian era England is a largely unfamiliar to the contemporary American. In order to best understand how George Bernard Shaw came to write his play Candida, a quick journey through the playwright’s life in the last quarter of the 19th century is helpful, particularly his encounters with socialism and the drama of Henrik Ibsen.
In 1876, George Bernard Shaw left his native Ireland and moved to London to create a new life for himself. He continued his studies on his own and began to write novels, all five of which proved unsuccessful. Having already witnessed first-hand the destruction of his parents’ marriage, the general economic degradation of his homeland and the failure of his early writing career, Shaw desperately needed something to believe in. Socialism would satisfy that need.
Shaw went to see Henry George, an American economist, give a speech about land nationalization in 1882. George claimed that the unequal distribution of land was the root of most economic evil. But while George thought redistribution of wealth could be achieved using taxation within the realm of capitalism, Shaw and many others present that night made the radical leap to accepting Socialism as the true answer to society’s ills.
The lasting legacy of Henry George, at least in relation to Shaw, would be the power of his oration. George was a fantastic speaker and the religious fervor he brought to politics was a key catalyst in the socialist revival of the 1880’s. While the character of Rev. James Morell in Candida was a composite of many different people, the similarities between Morell’s persuasive preaching and the captivating control George held over Shaw that night in 1882 are undeniable.
Over the next three years, Shaw dove into Socialist literature and attended the meetings of various leftist organizations. Yet as his knowledge grew, his radicalism gradually ebbed. By 1885, he had become an executive member of the Fabian Society. Instead of provoking revolution to bring about change, the Fabians advocated reform as the mechanism of encouraging progress, believing a socialist society would come when the time was right.
In addition to the success of the Fabians, a sweeping movement of Christian Socialism was also coming into its own. While Shaw and his Fabian brethren knew of the poverty of the working class, the clergy were the ones who had to interact with and console the poor on a daily basis. After his experience in the slums of London, Stuart Headlam founded the Guilt of St. Matthew to promote the similarities between The Golden Rule and socialism. Rather than convert socialists to Christianity, the mission of men like Headlam was to make socialists out of Christians. Headlam would put aside his religious standing in order to cooperate with the various socialist organizations, including the Fabian society. The ability to bring together an assortment of people—who usually held contempt for one another—under the universal cause of socialism was a key inspiration in Shaw’s creation of the character of James Morell, who had the same non-partisan technique.
While Christian socialism provided the setting of James and Candida Morell’s position in English society, the domestic drama of Henrik Ibsen would be central to the play’s narrative. As of 1887, Shaw had barely heard of the master Norwegian playwright. Ibsen had just hit his stride at the dawn of the 1880’s and his controversial reputation was slow in spreading to Victorian England. A Doll’s House finally received a London premiere in 1889, starring Janet Achurch as Nora. Shaw was so impressed by the play and its leading lady that he saw it a number of times before it closed. He then went on to write The Quintessence of Ibsenism, a collection of essays examining the philosophical ramifications of the playwright’s work.
Candida, written in 1894, can be considered Shaw’s response to Ibsen. The play deals with a similar domestic disturbance framed by the strict conventions of Victorian morality. However, they come to different conclusions. Whereas in A Doll’s House Nora discovers her marriage to be loveless, inspiring her to leave her family, in Candida Shaw puts forth the opinion that men are truly the playthings in the home. Candida is written as a pristine figure of reason and understanding (“the Virgin Mother” as Shaw called her); the men are weak and flawed, ultimately having to choose between domestic comforts or living without happiness.
By switching the helplessness from woman to man, Shaw was by no means promoting a misogynist agenda. His work in the Fabian Society was for the benefit of equality for all mankind, and that included women. Indeed, he had a difficult time getting Candida produced because of its portrayal of both women and men. Many actor-managers at the time were too old to play Marchbanks and did not want to play Morell in a show where their wife ultimately upstaged them. No theatre in England took interest in the play, and the New York company backed out of producing it after the show had gone into the rehearsal. Part of this trouble stemmed from Shaw’s demand that Janet Achurch, the actress who mesmerized him in A Doll’s House, play the role of Candida. Not until the Royal Court Theatre production in 1924 did Candida receive a full presentation, launching the play to its current status as one of Shaw’s early masterpieces.
Vocal Range of Characters:
|Name||Vocal Type||Low Note||High Note|
Vocal Range notes for A Minister's Wife:Candida,Mezzo-Soprano,G3,G5, Morell,Baritone,F2,F4, Marchbanks,Tenor,C3,G4, Prossy,Alto,A3,E5,Belt/Mix Lexy,Baritone,B2,F#4,*
Written By: Michael Halberstam
I first encountered Josh Schmidt when seeing a production of MEASURE FOR MEASURE as staged by the (now late lamented) Milwaukee Shakespeare Company in 2000. In the middle of a rather decent production, there arose a song of such sophistication and beauty that I could only imagine it belonged to some songwriting great whose work had been skillfully adapted to suit the project. When I asked Artistic Director John Maclay who the composer was, he introduced me at once to a rather eccentric looking fellow lurking in the lobby who immediately started monologuing to me about his craft and did not stop for a full half hour. I knew instantly I was in the presence of unfettered musical genius and I subsequently invited him to Glencoe to compose for our productions.
Over the next few years he gave us extraordinary scores, songs, and sound designs for such productions as ROUGH CROSSING, THE PRICE (directed by David Cromer), CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, THE DOCTOR'S DILEMMA, THE CHOSEN and OTHELLO to name just a few of our collaborations. Josh was not only a gifted sound designer but a composer of note and importance and it became very clear very soon that he needed to escape from the confinement of sound design and be supported in ventures which showcased his considerable gifts. Around 2005 I brought him to New York to compose incidental music for a production of CANDIDA I was directing at Jean Cocteau Repertory on the understanding that we might lay down a few sketches for a musical adaptation of the play. Those sketches formed the foundations for the score of A MINISTER'S WIFE.
Around the same time, Josh began working on an adaptation of THE ADDING MACHINE with Jason Loewith at Next Theatre Company under the brilliant direction of David Cromer. The production was a critical, artistic and box office triumph, and thanks to the unfailing vision of The Barrow Street Theatre's Scott Morfee and Tom Wirtshafter, it transferred to the Minetta Lane theatre in New York for a remarkable run. Josh's place as an-up-and coming musical theatre composer of significance was established. It is with great pleasure and enormous gratitude that we present to you his second full composition for the theatre.
Josh has an extraordinary gift. Josh can lift natural speech patterns into song in a seemingly effortless fashion. Although I personally know his labors to be far from effortless, they will not seem so to you. His music can be challenging in its complexity and depth but is never difficult on the ear. He has a natural gift for finding an affecting melody that will work its way into your heart and a passionate adherence to capturing truthful psychological behavior in his music. In this project he is joined by relative newcomer, lyricist Jan Tranen who has endured being the only woman on the writing team and yet managed to enchant us all like the eponymous wife in our musical. Jan has a secure and confident understanding of the form and has gently lifted Shaw's text into lyric while holding true to the playwright's intent. In the crucial role of book writer, Austin Pendleton, whose astonishing breadth of talent and experience (including by the way, originating the role of Motel in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF) spans the entire spectrum of the current entertainment industry, has re-structured Shaw's immaculately conceived work and in many places seamlessly integrated dialogue of his own.
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- Rehearsal Set
- 10 – Libretto Vocal Book
- 2 – Piano Vocal Score
- 1 – Digital Logo
- 1 – Digital Logo
- A MINISTER'S WIFE - Orchestration (5 Books/4 Players)
- 1 – Piano Conductor Score
- 1 – Cello
- 1 – Bass
- 1 – Violin
- 1 – Piano
- A MINISTER'S WIFE - Pre Production Pack
- 1 – Libretto Vocal Book
- 1 – Piano Vocal Score
- A Minister's Wife - Full Score
- A Minister's Wife - Layered Poster
The Reverend James Mayor Morell (Baritone)
Candida, Morells wife (Mezzo)
Eugene Marchbanks, a poet (Tenor)
Miss Prosperpine (Prossy) Garnett, Morells Secretary (Soprano)
The Reverend Alexander (Lexy) Mill, Morells Curate (Tenor/Baritone)