Captivating CHILDREN OF EDEN at The Players Club of Swarthmore

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Jimmy May (Wilmington, DE) as Noah, Erick J. Bayne (Smyrna, DE) as Father and Andrea Kalan (Bryn Mawr) as Mama Noah - in Children of Eden at The Players Club of Swarthmore Theater, running through May 12. .

The Players Club of Swarthmore’s current production, CHILDREN OF EDEN, offers a fun twist on two well-known biblical tales. The musical tackles the story of Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, and the Garden of Eden in Act I, and the story of Noah and the great flood in Act II. The musical offers a fresh perspective on these stories by framing them in terms of the relationship between parents and children. God, known only as “Father,” creates Adam and Eve as children for himself. He gives them a paradise and allows them to run free in it, with only one rule: They must never eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. When they disobey him, as children inevitably do, Father casts them out from the Garden of Eden. From then on, Adam and Eve and their offspring—generations that continue all the way to the time of Noah—must figure out how to navigate the world and raise their own children without the firm, parental hand of Father steering them. The themes of childhood rebellion and parental concern that pervade both acts of the musical resonate strongly with audiences.

Director Robert Welch has assembled a large cast of 43 “storytellers” of all ages (including two infants!). All the featured actors were excellent, but several performers really stood out. Erick J. Bayne tackles the demanding role of Father—the only character to appear in both acts—with grace and aplomb. His towering stature and strong baritone voice make him a compelling presence onstage, and he is able to deftly switch between Father’s proud-papa moments and times of anger. Bridget O’Donnell shines as Eve. Her big solo, “Spark of Creation,” draws the audience in and gives us a look at the real questioning and wonder that led to her decision to eat the forbidden fruit. Paul Recupero has a strong voice and portrays Adam’s conflict extremely well when he must choose between staying in the garden with Father or leaving with Eve. In the second act, standout performers include Emily Miller Hudell, who plays Yonah, a descendent of Cain who is not allowed on the ark but sneaks onboard because she is in love with Noah’s son, Japheth. And Andrea Kalan, as Mama Noah, brings down the house twice with her energetic gospel-themed number, “Ain’t It Good,” which is reprised after curtain call and really gets the audience on their feet. Several chorus soloists stand out as well, in particular Randino Del Rosario and Sherrilyn Carr, who open Act II with the rousing chorus number “Generations.” The six actors who portrayed the snake who tempts Eve were also impressive, singing and dancing while manipulating a giant snake puppet (designed by Kate Wright).

The large chorus was well-used in many scenes, sometimes acting as storytellers and other times filling in as trees or animals. A highlight is in Act II, when the animals begin boarding the ark two-by-two. It’s played for laughs and is a great showcase for the production’s delightful costumes. (Make sure you watch the penguins.) Under the music direction of Tom Mucchetti, the singers make great use of the score’s lush vocals. Donna Dougherty’s choreography is excellent and adds depth to many of the big chorus numbers.

CHILDREN OF EDEN is appropriate for all ages and would be a wonderful show for families to watch together.

CHILDREN OF EDEN
Book by John Caird
Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Directed by Robert Welch
April 20-May 12, 2012
The Players Club of Swarthmore
614 Fairview Avenue
Swarthmore, PA
www.pcstheater.org

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Angela Dalecki

Angela Dalecki

Angela Dalecki is a Delaware-based writer and editor. She has authored hundreds of articles, which have appeared at TV Guide.com, Lending Tree, eHow, Nights and Weekends, Reality News Online, and Helping Psychology, among others. She's also a theater nut and has appeared in several shows in the Philadelphia/Delaware area, including THE SECRET GARDEN, INTO THE WOODS, WILLY WONKA, Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and CHILDREN OF EDEN. By day, Angela is a database editor at Rovi Corporation and is working to finish her bachelor's degree online at the University of Massachusetts.

11 Comments

  1. As soon as I saw the cast list posted on PCS’s website, I knew not to bother paying the ridiculous $25 ticket price to see this production. Why? This show is written to have the same actors portray the leads in both acts. Any director who chooses not to do that misses the entire point of the story itself. Adam and Eve are in every one of us. History repeats itself. We are all Children of Eden. Even the author himself states this on his website (http://www.stephenschwartz.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/coe-notes-for-directors2.pdf) “I do consider it very important that the same actors play Adam and Noah, Eve and Mama Noah, Cain and Japheth, and Abel and Ham. The message of the show and clarity of the story-telling is definitely diluted if you split the roles.”
    PCS missed the boat on this one. Or should I say they missed the ark?

  2. Wow, aren’t you quite the theatre critic? Clearly, your $25 was well spent somewhere else, allowing you to pass such judgement on a production you have chosen not to see. Nice work doing a quick Google search on Stephen Schwartz. If you read the full blurb from Mr. Schwartz, you will notice he says it is his preference to have the same cast – its not, shall we say, the law of God. However, if you truly knew anything about this show you would realize it has been performed with different leads multiple times, allowing more talented actors and actresses to be in the show. Usually the only people upset by this are those who think very highly of their talent and feel they deserve to star in both acts (diva, anyone?) I saw this show over the weekend, and it was fantastic, and the audience loved every second of it. PCS appears to be doing just fine without you warming one of their seats.

  3. Paul Recupero says:

    Hi Annie, while I actually agree with your vision of the show, splitting the roles is commonly done with this musical, and your tone is puzzlingly acerbic with respect to this particular production, which you admit you have not seen. Also, from the link you provided, while Stephen Schwartz mentions his preference is that the Act I and II roles be played by the same actors, he goes on to state “But if for your production you feel you must divide the roles, then I think your idea of costuming similarities is a good one, and I would recommend using ‘Generations’ to make the transition really clear.” Since you can’t comment on PCS’s production, I can assure you that the director has done just that with that musical number.

  4. Annie- how do you know if PCS missed the “ark” if you didn’t bother to spend the $25.00 to see it???
    The Bible stories also say judge not, lest ye be judged.
    Something to think about.
    Congratulations to the cast. Looking forward to seeing the show!

  5. Bridget O'Donnell says:

    Well said, Paul. I second that.

  6. I agree with Annie and I SAW this production. I have seen it performed both with split roles and with the same leads in both acts. Personally, I like the symmetry of using the same leads. They had a really strong Mama Noah and I’d have LOVED to see her as Eve as well. I think she’d have given Eve’s songs more fire. To each his own.

  7. Mark Paikoff says:

    Annie and Sue are certainly entitled to their opinions. But you do both realize that it’s community theater and a show about community don’t you? In the PCS production the actors are also storytellers in the other act clearly showing the community aspect of the production and the show itself. The fact that father is the ONLY character who is the same in both acts to me is powerful in and of itself.

    Recreation of a director’s vision is a long-standing tradition in theater (Company and Sweeney Todd come to mind) and Paul is correct that every detail of the production has been carefully thought through. Generations is a powerful connection between the two stories.

    The original London production had separate actors for the roles and the Paper Mill Playhouse used double casting so there is professional precedent to both.

    Theater is all about the interaction and the experience. Annie, I encourage you to go and make up your mind for yourself. Sue I find it interesting that you only comment on one specific character and not the production as a whole.

  8. I believe I did comment on the production as a whole when i said that I prefer the show not be double cast. Just my preference. The production itself was enjoyable. The costuming lihting music. The reason that I mentioned Mama Noah is that I feel she really stood out among the cast. Why is the fact that i only mentioned one character interesting? If it will make you feel better, the lady who sang Generations was fantastic too,

  9. Wasteland soloist 4 says:

    Personally I thought that both Eve and Mama Noah did fantastic. I will also add that I have seen the beautiful woman who played eve, also portray this role at Barnstormers of ridley park in 2009. This show went with the single cast where the leads played both acts. Not only was she a great Eve, but she is more then capable of “bringing down the house” as Mama in “aint’ it good. She was fantastic! As a side note, I would like to say that the handsome young gentlemen who sang as one of the wasteland soloist, and also sang the “death of Able” was breathtaking. This cast meshes so well together that it sends goosebumps down your spine. With that said $25 dollars is more then a reasonable price for this stunning production. Between the costumes, set, and talent. You will glady get your moneys worth!

  10. Oh! I saw the Barnstormers one too! My best friend was one of the storytellers. That production is what made me fall in love with the show. So I came to see the Players Club production. It was really wonderful and I loved all the voices in it. But part of what made me cry so much the first time I saw it (at Barnstormers) was the double use of the same actors. The message was so beautiful. Every man carries a bit of Adam in him. And every woman, Eve. Hearing the same voice sing “The Spark of Creation” to her husband in Act 2 brought the entire thing full circle (and made me cry yet again…LOL). I missed that in the Players Club production.

  11. Liam (young Cain) says:

    i will miss this production more than any other I have been in. I loved the choice to cast different people. It gave a variety both offstage and on. An amazing experience and personally I loved that father was the only character played the same throughout it all. It shows a message that I love is that everything changes bur god is constant and always looking out for us. Even if he is not controlling our actions he still is there.

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