Children of Eden is composer Stephen Schwartz’s favourite work, yet one that has not appeared on Broadway and there has been one only professional production of this musical in Australia – and that was a one night only, concert presentation by Magnornus last year. It is, however, very popular amongst school and community groups who can accommodate the large cast required, including a children’s cast.
Jacqui Moore delivers a stand out performance as Eve/Mama Noah, with a stunning rendition of ‘Spark of Creation’ and a powerful ‘Ain’t It Good’. She has perfect pitch and clear diction and is a pleasure to listen to. Michael Laity gives a strong performance as Adam/Noah and delivers a touching performance of ‘Hardest Part of Love’.
Ross Charlesworth looks the part of Father, but struggles with some of the complexity of the Stephen Schwartz score. When he hits the right note, he has a full and rich quality to his voice but seems hesitant with entrances at times and is often pitchy. He may do better if some of the lines were spoken, as this may allow him to relax into the role. Hopefully with a few performances any nerves will settle.
Joel Norman-Hade as Cain/Japheth and Sam Knol as Abel/Ham give solid performances. Paola Guerra Marin delivers a beautiful and sensitive portrayal of Yonah. While she doesn’t have quite the strength to really belt out the top notes in ‘Stranger to the Rain’ her softness gives the performance a real sincerity. Aiden Willcox as Seth/Shem demonstrates he has some strong acting skills and will be one to watch in the future.
The set on each side of the stage provides a place for performers to stand and gives some height, but it does create a bottle neck for the cast moving to the front of the stage. However, with some effective choreography by Leah Osbburn, this is mostly managed well by the cast. The seating of the cast around the theatre during ‘Ain’t It Good’ prevents any real form of movement, but this is the one song they can really get into and should be encouraged to sway and move along more to the toe-tapping music guides them.
The set design by Naomi Woodward is good but I was disappointed to not see a rainbow appear in the final song. The use of multi-coloured lights at that moment did not create the same stunning visual impact a rainbow (or even a projection of a rainbow) would have made.
Lighting by Peter Amesbury is excellent and really enhances the story telling. Audio design by Dale Pankhurst is mostly good, and a few imbalances early were quickly corrected, however there were a few songs where it was very difficult to pick up the lyrics – particularly in ‘Generations’ at the start of act two. This should improve with a few more performances.
Director Naomi Woodward has brought together a cast of varying talents to deliver an enjoyable show. The children all did a fabulous job, knew where to be, what to do and added a gorgeous cute factor to the show. They looked well prepared and comfortable on the stage.
Solo performances varied. There were certainly a number of pitch problems with some performers, but when they all come together, the ensemble sound is rich and lovely to listen to. Credit should be given to vocal director Talaylin Zeppa and orchestral director Malcolm Huddle. The orchestra were excellent and brought this beautiful score to life.
While Children of Eden is not a perfect performance, People’s Playhouse has delivered a good production of this charming musical.
For more details: http://peoplesplayhouse.asn.au/