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Best of all possible failures

Herb Greer on a fine production of a flawed musical which proves that literature and theatre are very different things.

By Herb Greer   July 1999

Literature and theatre: are they the same? Some years ago, at a conference in Salzburg, Malcolm Bradbury said yes. I said no. The discussion ended in pantomimic shouting: “Oh, yes, they are!” “Oh, no, they’re not!” This did not settle the question, so for the seminar I wrote and directed a one-act play whose dialogue consisted of numbers. This worked quite well and seemed to prove my point.

A more spectacular proof is in rep at the National Theatre: an attempt to theatricalise a literary classic, Voltaire’s Candide, with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics and book by a number…

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