Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Review Is In: Children of Eden

The review of Children of Eden was published in the March 12 edition of the Journal & Courier, Lafayette's daily newspaper. It was written by Dick Jaeger. It was not published online, but is included in its entirety below.

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Musicians unite for an exceptional 'Children of Eden'
By Dick Jaeger

High praise for Civic Theatre's production of "Children of Eden" is not an extravagance. It is fact.

The musical, directed by Kate Walker, is arguably one of the finest the theater organization has ever mounted and, with a bow toward Stephen Schwartz who wrote the musical score, Walker gathered a large superb cast of local actors/singers who brought this biblical epic to the stage.

This is a pop opera. Built in the style of "Tommy" or "Starlight Express," the show brings Stephen Sondheim to mind, differing from contemporary musicals wherein the majority of the story line is carried by songs, arias and dances all designed to further the plot.

The fact that Walker located so many legitimate voices to present the show is remarkable.

Religious fundamentalists may bridle at the somewhat loose way the creation and Noah's ark stories are told in this show, but there is no question that the slings and arrows of humanity and the family problems that plague every family are pictured.

A "fundamental" set and costumes provide playing areas while graphic videos enhance the action and the atmosphere that plays such a huge part in the lives of the people who are "guests" on this planet.

The music is nearly non-stop with only a few scenes devoted to spoken dialogue but with modern recitatives that further the storyline. The show has 34 songs listed but many are inter-connected. Civic Theatre's new sound system helps a lot, too.

There are so many outstanding singers and actors it would take far more space than we have here to describe.

But some of the standouts are Jeff Spanke as Father the Supreme Being who is identified as human.

His rich baritone and superb acting skills brings credibility to the role.

Robert Keller portrays Adam and Noah in a commanding performance and soprano Sara Tyner is magnificent as the young Eve who causes a conflict by her constant questioning of Father and her duplicitious run-in with the Snake (wonderfully done by James Osborne) and the forbidden fruit.

The two sons of Adam, Cain and Abel, take on different roles in the second act, telling the story of Noah and the ark. The interchange of roles, while perfectly clear in the story, makes it a little difficult to keep track of just who is playing whom, but this in no way detracts from the epic.

Of special note are two women's roles, Yonah, who bears the mark of Cain because of his murder of his brother, is beautifully done by Liz Bruni.

Her body language and singing voice bring so much to the role, and the beautiful duet with Japheth, "Whatever Time We Have," is a true love duet.

Justice Marie Fuller as Mama Noah brings down the house with a stomping gospel rock, "Ain't It Good?" that brings Jennifer Hudson to mind.

With so many outstanding performances plus the great (albeit sometimes a little too loud) stage band under the direction of Paul Addison, the evening is time well spent.

One would be made of stone, or a pillar of salt, not to be touched and enriched by this production by both its beauty and its message.

Jaeger is a retired choral music director and may be contacted by calling the Journal & Courier at (765) 420-5226.

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Children of Eden begins the third weekend of its three-weeend run tonight and continues with shows at 8:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evening, and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. The show closes Sunday, March 22.

To inquire about tickets, please call the Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette box office at 765-423-PLAY (7529) or visit the Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette Web site.

2 comments:

Lis said...

Thanks for posting this!

Steve Martin said...

You're very welcome!