Last night I headed to True North Cultural Arts at the French Creek Nature Center for “Children Of Eden.” The show is based on the biblical book of Genesis and was written by Stephen Schwartz. It opened on London’s West End in 1991 and closed three months later after poor reviews and low attendance. Eden has lived on through various professional and amateur productions all over the world. It’s a favorite among community theaters because of it’s large cast requirements, moral subject matter and the ability to cast children in the ensemble.
True North tackles Children Of Eden starting tonight with Douglas Bailey II at the helm in his directorial debut. I reviewed Bailey in Big River, also at True North, and thoroughly enjoyed his competency as an actor and vocalist. I give him a lot of credit and benefit of the doubt for this being his first show, but there were elements to the show that were just awkward. The staging, while simple, was clunky, ineffective and poorly executed. The lighting didn’t play well against the all black set and the uncomfortably long transitions at the beginning of both acts took place in complete, silent, darkness.
I don’t know if it was overwork, busy schedules, or the flu but several cast members were not vocally up to par on preview night, including the usually incredible Alex Arroyo (Cain/Japeth). Thankfully his spot on dancing, commanding stage presence and mastery of his roles almost made up for him seeming to lose his voice during several songs. Tasha Brandt (Eve/Mama Noah) fell short vocally but knocked it out of the park with her acting. Her monologue at the end of Act 1 will leave you in tears.
The real star of Eden is the incredible Gilgamesh A. Tagget who plays Father, or God. The last show I reviewed him in was Jerry Springer the Opera (Beck Center) where he, ironically, played Satan. Tagget’s versatility as an actor truly astounds me. His stage presence leaves you wanting more and his vocals are spot on. He steals the show every time he steps on stage. Also notable were Tia Karaplis (Yonah), Ian Atwood (Adam/Noah) and Pat Miller (Abel/Ham).
Children Of Eden is an incredibly well written show and this version is decent. The staging and execution issues on preview night, however, were very distracting. The performances were spirited but several fell below par, even for community theatre. I would recommend seeing the show…next weekend. The cast seemed burned out after tech week and should snap back to normal after a week of rest. All of the elements are there for this to be a great show for True North, but the director needs to pull it together and polish it up. Tickets are available by clicking here!