BWW Review: CHILDREN OF EDEN at Footlite Musicals
Reading the synopsis of CHILDREN OF EDEN leads you to believe you know exactly what's to come. The story of the Book of Genesis is one many people have at least a passing familiarity with. However, this musical makes the stories come to life in new ways and provokes questions and thoughts that are as relevant today as they were in Biblical times. A journey through the Garden of Eden becomes a whirlwind of music, movement, and moving moments that goes far beyond the words on a page.
It must have been extremely difficult to cast this show because the roles are people whose names we've heard again and again: Adam, Eve, Noah, Cain, Abel. But there is also the role of Father, AKA God. How does one begin to conceive of playing God? Allen Sledge was more than able to take on this vast and complicated role, and he did it with his own panache. He had a round, rich sound that resonated in the theater and had an especial air of warm authority to it. He helped the audience see the events unfolding from a different point of view, that of a father watching his children stumble as they take their first steps in the world and the pain that comes from watching them fail.
Mitchell Hammersley (Adam/Noah) and Nina Stilabower (Eve/Mama) were also standouts on the stage. They had another difficult task in portraying the first man and woman. Hammersley and Stilabower both showed the turn we all take in life from the innocence of childhood to the "knowing" of adulthood. I found them very relatable, especially Eve. She is shown questioning and wondering and longing for what is "beyond." That is something so many people struggle with; we have so much but still want more from what may lie beyond our current scope. Both actors were strong vocalists, and they made themselves stand out in their songs as the crux of the emotional turmoil that came from falling from grace with Father.
Two particular moments in the show resonated with me the most. The first was the scene in which the Snake, led by Shelley Young, tempts Eve to taste of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. The movement of the actresses to evoke the movement of a serpent were so sinister yet seductive. I found it a very clever directorial choice to have them wave and coil and wrap around Eve throughout the scene, even incorporating her in as part of the serpent. It brought the symbolism of the moment to the fore. The second scene I loved mostly because the singing was exceptional. When Adam (Hammersley), Eve (Stilabower), and Abel (Jonathan Krouse) sang "Close to Home," they had a truly beautiful blend. Their perfect harmony made the theme of the song so much more meaningful.
This musical is more than a retelling; it is a chance to see what brings us together as human beings. Director Lauren Johnson said it so well in her director's note. "We need to learn from the past, let go of those things which hold us back, and move into the future together. If we can do that, every moment of our lives can be the beginning." Experience this transformation alongside some amazing singing and dance at Footlite Musicals until tomorrow night, May 19th.