CHILDREN OF EDEN
Playhouse South’s purposeful, engaging, vocally strong presentation of composer Stephen Schwartz and librettist John Caird’s 1991 biblical musical “Children of Eden” clearly ranks among the organization’s finest productions.
Staged with minimalist cohesiveness by Carrie Thurston and based on a concept by Charles Lisanby, “Children of Eden” puts a family-oriented, contemporary spin on the familiar tales of creation (Act 1) and the great flood (Act 2) from the Book of Genesis. The parent/child-themed Act 1 is more engrossing than Act 2 due to the emotional value of Adam and Eve’s journey from bliss to banishment, but there is potency throughout, especially in the parallels of brotherly strife (Cain vs. Abel / Japeth vs. Ham) and the struggle God (named Father) undergoes while coping with the generational disobedience of His children.
Meaningful portrayals are offered by full-throttle tenor Sean Hurley as Father, Muse Machine alum Jacob McGlaun as Adam/Noah, Natalie Sanders as Eve/Mama, Bobby Mitchum as Snake/Cain/Japeth, David Stephen Thomas as Abel/Ham, Mackensie Vonderbrink as Yonah, and Jamal Cann as Seth/Shem. McGlaun, a wonderfully practical and sensitive Adam/Noah, has an appealing chemistry with the effectively inquisitive Sanders, a knockout vocalist. In fact, Sanders’ renditions of “The Spark of Creation” and the gospel-centric “Ain’t it Good” are among the best I have heard. I’m surprised “Ain’t it Good,” vigorously heightened by an uncredited pianist in conductor Brett Greenwood’s fine orchestra, does not receive a brief encore due to its nearly show-stopping magnitude. The ever-reliable Mitchum also hits the mark with pleasant versions of “The Pursuit of Excellence” (a highlight among choreographer Davy Folger’s routines), “Lost in the Wilderness,” and “In Whatever Time We Have” (opposite Vonderbrink).
The cast also includes Laura Bloomingdale, Alli Brown, Jess Evans, Tamar Fishbein, Jessica Freesen, Sherry Fox, Bobby Gray, Pauline Humbert, Leah Kushmaul, Kaylei Lowe, Ria Megnin, Brett Norgaard, Jordan Norgaard, Bethany Scearce, Bradley Scearce, TC Schrier, Victoria Tuccillo, Hailey Walters and Ashley York.
“Children of Eden” ends tonight. Catch it if you can.
“Children of Eden” concludes March 10 at 8 p.m. at the Clark Haines Theatre (Kettering Board of Education building), 3700 Far Hills Ave., Kettering. Act One: 75 minutes; Act Two: 55 minutes. Tickets are $7-$12. For tickets or more information, call (888) 262-3792 or visit www.playhousesouth.org.
THE BIG PICTURE
Dayton continues to be a hotbed for burgeoning musicals, but no one ever said the process was easy. The most recent example is lyricist-librettist David Brush and composer Jim Farley’s “The Big Picture,” originally workshopped in 2004 and currently receiving its world premiere at Beavercreek Community Theatre.
Set in 1962 Pine Springs, Illinois with flashbacks to 1942, “The Big Picture” centers on college student Billy Carson (Brian Kester), who returns home for the summer seeking answers about his long-lost father Jack (Michael Shannon). However, questions arise when Billy’s agitated mother Maggie (Pam McGinnis) refuses to reveal the past, particularly Jack’s history as a B-movie screenwriter/director. Family drama aside, romantic subplots emerge in the form of Billy’s affection for his high school crush Ellie Patterson (Angela Umstead) and Maggie’s topsy-turvy relationship with her amiable suitor Charlie (Shawn Hooks).
Brush and Farley attempt to create a poignant small town coming-of-age tale, but their foundation lacks cohesion, balance and depth. Jack and Maggie’s USO courtship is stagnant (more flashbacks would be beneficial). Billy and Ellie’s bond is awkwardly underdeveloped. Billy’s best friend Sam Morris (Eric Bracht) serves as comic relief, but is basically an annoying distraction. Further, the score, containing shades of Big Band, is merely serviceable than impactful (Act 2 ballad “What A Little Moonlight Can Do” is the strongest of 20 songs). Perhaps if the bulk of the score was cemented to the era a la “Hairspray,” also set in 1962, the show would have considerable flavor.
Artistically, director Doug Lloyd’s cast fails to engage or coalesce. Some actors have difficulty overcoming issues of age-appropriateness and memorization while others suffer from shaky musicality. Chris Harmon’s cinema-inspired scenic design and John Falkenbach’s efficient lighting design are technical pluses.
Instead of tweaking “The Big Picture,” Brush and Farley should consider retooling/resurrecting their 2003 musical “Summer of My German Soldier,” a sharper endeavor based on Bette Greene’s novel of the same name.
“The Big Picture” concludes March 11 at the Lofino Center, 3868 Dayton-Xenia Rd., Beavercreek. Performances are Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Act One: 50 minutes; Act Two: 38 minutes. Tickets are $11-$13. The cast also includes Matt Owens as the Soldier. For tickets or more information, call (937) 429-4737 or visit www.bctheatre.org. In related news, BCT’s 2012-13 season will consist of “Musical Chairs” (Sept. 7-16, directed by Matt Owens), “The Sugar Bean Sisters” (Oct. 26-Nov. 4, directed by Doug Lloyd), “On Christmas Day In The Morning” (Nov. 30-Dec. 9, directed by Teresa Connair), “Steppin’ Out” (Jan. 25-Feb. 3, directed by John Falkenbach), “A Chorus Line” (March 1-10, directed by Doug Lloyd), “The Canterbury Tales or Geoffrey Chaucer’s Flying Circus” (Apr. 19-28, directed by Teresa Connair), “Legally Blonde The Musical” (June 21-30, directed by Chris Harmon).
Wright State University saluted the melodically rich legacy of composer Kurt Weill (1900-1950) with an excellent presentation of the 1972 revue “Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill: A Musical Voyage” March 2-4 in the Herbst Theatre.
As the title indicates, “Berlin to Broadway” chronicled Weill from his German benchmarks (particularly “The Threepenny Opera,” his legendary 1928 Bertolt Brecht collaboration featuring his muse/wife Lotte Lenya) to his New York successes (such as “Lady in the Dark,” “Lost in the Stars,” “Love Life” and “One Touch of Venus”). Weill, who became an American citizen in 1943, notably won the first original score Tony Award for 1947’s “Street Scene,” co-written by Langston Hughes. His diverse collaborators also included Maxwell Anderson, Ira Gershwin, Oscar Hammerstein II, Alan Jay Lerner and Ogden Nash.
Crisply staged with lyric-driven intent by Jamie Cordes and fittingly accented with mood-setting projections by Nicholas Crumbley, this breezy revue featured 38 songs and a dynamic octet solidly supported by musical director/pianist Susan Carlock. Highlights included Chrissy Bowen and Lizzy Miller’s fiery “Jealousy Duet,” Ian DeVine and Drew Helton’s playful “Progress,” Samantha Helmstetter’s beguilingly personable “That’s Him,” Jonathan Hacker’s reflective “Lonely House,” Cooper Taggard’s splendid “Lost in the Stars,” and Emily Thomas’ strikingly firm “Surabaya Johnny,” “Pirate Jenny” and “Saga of Jenny.” Helmstetter, a terrific soprano, also rendered a fabulously captivating, character-consumed “I Wait for a Ship” pulsating with seduction and strength. It is no surprise she is a semifinalist in the Kurt Weill Foundation’s esteemed Lotte Lenya Competition and will be seen as Christine in WSU’s spring production of “The Phantom of the Opera.”
Although a deeper, more compelling account of Weill’s illustrious career, including his relationship with Lenya, can be found in Alfred Uhry’s little known 2007 musical “LoveMusik,”“Berlin to Broadway” proved thoroughly satisfying.
Tickets for the Victoria Theatre Association’s four-week return engagement of “Wicked” go on sale to the general public Monday, March 19 at 8 a.m. in the Wintergarden of the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets. Tickets will also be available at 9 a.m. online (www.ticketcenterstage.com) and 10 a.m. by phone (937-228-3630). Tickets are $42-$121. There is an eight-ticket limit per patron. “Wicked” will be performed May 30-June 24 in the Mead Theatre of the Schuster Center. For more information, visit www.ticketcenterstage.com