Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Children of Eden"

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note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark


Children of Eden

Book by John Caird
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Based on a Concept by Charles Lisanby
Directed by Robert Johanson
Choreographed by Dawn DiPasquale
Music Direction by Danny Kosarin

Scenic Design by Michael Anania
Costume Design by Gregg Barnes
Lighting Design by Jack Mehler
Sound Design by John A. Stone
Production Stage Manager Renee Brown

Father.........................................................Bill Nolte
Adam/Noah...........................................Adrian Zmed
Eve/Mama Noah................................Stephanie Mills
Cain/Japheth.......................................Darius DeHaas
Abel/Ham............................................Jimmy Ludwig
Seth/Shem...........................................Vincent D'Elia
Yonah.....................................................Kelly Rabke
Aysha......................................Michelle Liu Coughlin
Aphra.................................................Sheetal Gandhi
Seth's Wife.........................................Jessica Wright
Young Cain......................................Alfred Miller Jr.
Young Abel.....................................Benjamin Cohen
Snake
Coughlin, D'Elia, Doug Friedman, Gandhi, Lauren Kosarin
"Wasteland" Soloists
Judi Edwards, J. Robert Spencer, Debra Walton, Michael-Leon Wooley, Jessica Wright
"Generations" Soloists
Judi Edwards, Trent Armand Kendall
plus 25 Adult Storytellers
and 22 Children Storytellers

ORCHESTRA
Flute, Piccolo..................Ernesto Sola III
Clarinet..............................Marc Phaneuf
Oboe, English Horn..............Rod Ferland
Horn.........................................Whit Hill
Cello...................................Sandy Kiefer
Bass......................................Barry Smith
Percussion......................Mark Worgaftik
Drums.............................Matthew Gordy
Guitar, Mandolin..............David Newsam
Guitar................................John Marasco
Keyboard..............................Janet Roma
Keyboard....................Rebecca Plummer
Keyboard.......................Bryan Schimmel


This review is unconscionably late, but I didn't want to give the impression that it hasn't been reviewed because I didn't like it. Computer failures, bad use of time, and perhaps even a bit of autumn depression have left me overworked and underslept until I am Four reviews behind, this being the longest-neglected. But in fact, the focus of "Children of Eden" is on a very humanized God-The-FATHER learning the joys and troubles of parent- grand-parent-, and great-grand-parent-hood in a very uplifting and original way, with a cast of half a hundred all bubbling through a score with long melodic lines sung by powerful voices. And the parade of Noah's animals is worth the price of admission all by itself.

John Ciard's book turns Genesis on its head by making the story's villains into admirable revolutionaries. For instance, while Adam is contentedly busy naming all the animals alphabetically, Eve becomes so fascinated by that bright new word "beyond" that it's only a matter of time before the Snake shows her the quickest way to get there. Then it's Cain's eagerness to defy his own father Adam's caution not to go any farther than the waterfall that has him kill his own brother fighting to break free. And then Japheth defies both his father Noah and great-granddad God himself by choosing as a wife a descendant of Cain to enter the Ark with him, two by two.

Through it all, Bill Nolte's Father beautifully expresses God's love and joy in his creations, despite his profound disappointment in their wilful disregard of his commands. And the effect of the varied repetitions of the identical conflicts are enhanced by having Adrian Zmed play both Adam and Noah, Stephanie Mills both Eve and Mrs. Noah, Darius DeHaas both Cain and Japheth. The conflict structure remains the same, deepening with each repetition, leaving God at last an old man sitting alone on a rock watching rather than participating in the game, yet still rooting for one side over another.

Stephanie Mills looks about four feet tall, and she has a voice as big as all outdoors, with a thrilling stage-presence to match. And Darius DeHaas can match her note for note. They dominate the first half of the show. Then in the second half, Kelly Rabke's song accepting her lot because as an outcast she is no "Stranger to The Rain" re-shapes the entire conflict over again.

This is a musical full of ritual and visual statements. It begins with a central fire, and the entire fifty-member cast undergoing wordless, stylized purification rites. A deliberate attempt to make the cast multi-national, coming in all shapes and sizes, ages and colors, adds another dimension, as does a mimed pageant of animals both in Eden and on the Ark, and sketched sets and costumes that lead the imagination to do its own completion. No doubt the entrance of the elephants gets an appreciative hand every performance. Add to that several "storytellers" spotted about on platforms out in the circular audience who narrate and comment on the action, and there is a lot going on, visually and musically. Director Robert Johanson and Choreographer Dawn DiPasquale have used every facet of the NSMT stage and house, and John A. Stone's sound design is in perfect pitch every note of the way.

And I should have said all this two weeks ago.
Forgive me......

Love,
===Anon.


"Children of Eden" (till 24 October)
NORTH SHORE MUSIC THEATRE
62 Dunham Road, BEVERLY
1(978-922-8500

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