Parent-child relationships have been a perennial issue throughout history, even “In the Beginning.” Damascus Theatre Company’s production of Children of Eden takes the audience on a musical journey which deconstructs this sensitive and important topic. Based on the Biblical book of Genesis, it features music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by John Caird. Under the skillful tutelage of Director Keith Tittermary and Music Director Sam Weich, plus the talents of Choreographer Megan McNellage, Children of Eden is a tuneful extravaganza which will delight and inform you and, most of all, entertain you.
The first act and the second act are two separate stories, but they share a common theme and cast. Act I is the story of a God-like character known only as Father (Kevin Sockwell) who has created the Earth and two human creatures in his own image. His “children” are Adam (Kevin James Logan) and Eve (Cheryl J. Campo) who live and love in idyllic splendor in the Garden of Eden. Father insists that they not eat the glistening, tempting fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and he creates a game to distract Adam and Eve by having them name the animals.
However, Eve is restless and is still intrigued by the forbidden fruit. Eventually, on a day when no one else is around, a snake (Nick Cox, Rob Milanic, Katelyn Avon, Katherine Worley, and Kendall Nicole Sigman) appears and convinces Eve to eat the fruit. When Father hears of Eve’s betrayal, he is harsh and unforgiving and decrees that she must leave the garden forever. Moreover, he forces Adam to choose between staying with Eve and continuing to live in paradise. He chooses Eve and they set off for a new chapter in their lives where they have children of their own—Cain (Luis “Matty” Montes), Abel (Nick Cox), and Seth (Rob Milanic)—and discover other people. Cain kills Abel, although there’s a twist on the familiar Bible story, and the family struggles to go on.
Act II takes place ten generations later and we meet Noah (Kevin James Logan). Father is still blaming the descendants of Cain for what was done in the distant past. He is determined to punish them with a terrible flood, but he wants to spare the animals as well as Noah’s family—his wife (Cheryl J. Campo), his sons Ham (Nick Cox), Shem (Rob Milanic) and Japheth (Luis “Matty” Montes), Ham’s wife, Aphra (Katherine Worley) and Shem’s wife, Aysha (Katelyn Avon). He tells Noah to build a huge ark which will protect them, but with the stipulation that Japheth, who is still a bachelor, must be married. Japheth has been introduced to a lot of women, but he loves Yonah (Kendall Nicole Sigman), a servant who is a descendant of Cain. So, Noah and his family must decide which is more important—Father’s prejudice or true love.
The performances in Children of Eden are superb. Kevin Sockwell as Father has a rich and commanding voice as he sings “Let There Be” and “Father’s Day” and he has the perfect combination of edginess and arrogance as he sings “The Mark of Cain.”
Kevin James Logan is a wonderful singer who is the hero of the piece, sort of. In both of his characters, he starts out as a bit of wimp but comes through as a strong, principled man in the end. His excellent vocal dynamics are very much in evidence as he sings “A World Without You.” And, he combines beautifully with Father in “The Hardest Part of Love,” as they attempt to sort out their feelings for their children.
The characters Eve and Mama Noah are stunningly portrayed by the talented actress Cheryl J. Campo. She becomes the conscience of the group as she sings “Children of Eden” and leads the cast in the rollicking gospel number, “Ain’t It Good?”
Luis “Matty” Montes is splendid in two “rebel” roles. Where Cain is brash and violent, Japheth stands up for what he believes in. Montes’ voice is exciting and powerful, especially in “Lost in the Wilderness.” Kendall Nicole Sigman as Yonah has a sweet, bell-like voice as she shines in “Stranger to the Rain.” And, Montes and Sigman are in perfect sync when they sing, “In Whatever Time We Have.”
The action is narrated by a group called the Storytellers and not only are they harmonious as a group, but they do themselves proud as soloists, as well. The dance ensemble is amazing, and some of them are 10 years old and younger! They clearly have a bright future in theatre. Sam Weich leads a nine-piece orchestra which complements, but never overshadows, the onstage performers.
Keith Tittermary’s set design is wonderfully creative with simple boxes and a video screen upstage. Carol Boyle’s costume design is fabulous, and Maria Littlefield’s animal masks are stunning. The “snake” must be seen to be fully appreciated, but it involves singing, dancing, formal wear, and a puppet.
Damascus Theatre Company’s production of Children of Eden is a clever retelling of ancient stories that still rings true today. Its talented cast, variety of musical styles, intelligent lyrics, and fabulous choreography make it fun to learn our lessons. Children of Eden is heavenly!
Running Time: Approximately two hours and 30 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.
Children of Eden plays through November 20, 2016, at Damascus Theatre Company performing at Olney Theatre Center’s Historic Stage – 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, in Olney, MD. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online.