Children of Eden at CCM: Ainâ€™t It Good!
Review by Spenser Smith of Children of Eden: UC College-Conservatory of Music
If only Children of Eden, the musical by Wicked scribe Stephen Schwartz and John Caird, could run for forty days and forty nights. Much to our collective chagrin, it only runs for three days. If the free tickets werenâ€™t gone when they became available to the public on Monday at noon, Iâ€™d go again.
The premise of this show is pretty simple. Act One is set in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, and Act two takes place on Noahâ€™s ark. Each act highlights a different set of actors playing the featured characters. In the beginning, we meet Father (Phillip Johnson-Richardson), Adam (Bryce Baxter) and Eve (Ciara Alyse Harris). Father brings the pair together as man and wife and at first everything goes to plan. Their playful back and forth is really funny at the start and as all good dramatic stories go, we know that things are about to get really bad, really quickly. Now enters that thing Eve was told she couldnâ€™t have so now she wants it more because itâ€™s off limits: the Forbidden Fruit. Adam and Eve are banished, they are forced to make a life for themselves and their children Cain (Zack Triska) and Abel (EJ Dohring) are born. The relationship dynamic between these characters is thrilling to watch. Baxter and Harris are a perfect pair, their performances are heartbreaking, beautiful and man can they SING.
Thank the Father we get fifteen minutes to dry our tears and prepare for more.
Act Two features Noah (Gabe Wrobel) and Mama (Emily Ashton Meredith) struggling with allowing an outsider into their family. Oh yeah, and itâ€™s raining a lot, they have to build a massive boat and gather a bunch of animals. Yonah (Emily Royer) has fallen in love with Japheth (Stavros Koumbaros) and they are willing to sacrifice themselves to be together. Itâ€™s time to load everyone on to the ark and Noah wonâ€™t allow her to come. If they were unwilling to accept her before, just let her sing â€œStranger to the Rainâ€ and then get back to me. Kudos to the entire ensemble for playing all of the different animals and providing the atmosphere for all the different locations.
Production elements are solid across the board. The set, designed by Logan Greenwell, features many empty chairs at many empty tables. I was not in the wrong theatre, but I couldnâ€™t help but think that maybe I was seeing Les Miz. The second half features a really cool element I wonâ€™t spoil, but the set really complemented the environmental tone to the production. Director Vince DeGeorge has assembled a tight-knit ensemble that works very well together. You can tell they have all given one hundred percent to this production. The one-man band that is Steve Goers has the score and the ensemble singing it sounding incredible.
Any dry eyes in the house were the exception to the rule on opening night. I could not have been more impressed with the quality of this production. If you were lucky enough to get a ticket, youâ€™re in for a delicious treat.
Donâ€™t be fooled if you hear the phrase â€œsold-outâ€ floating around. There were many empty seats on opening night. You can show up to the box office prior to the start of the performance and get placed on the waiting list. Donâ€™t miss your chance to see this show!
Children of Eden runs through April 1 in the Cohen Family Studio Theatre on the campus of the University of Cincinnati.