LET THERE BE MUSIC!
REVIEW: CHILDREN OF EDEN
BY RYAN M. LUÉVANO
Before Wicked, Stephen Schwartz created Children of Eden, a contemporary retelling of the Biblical stories of Adam and Eve; Cain and Abel; and Noah and the flood. Cabrillo Music Theatre brings the community this epic show with a fresh and inspiring production that is sure to amuse. Cabrillo Music Theatre has outdone itself with this show giving audiences an extraordinary lead cast, beautiful lyrical dancing, a full orchestra and a cast of nearly fifty, which includes an ensemble of children from local schools.
Director Lewis Wilkenfeld’s modern staging and direction is captivating and superb—he uses the entire stage and various elements to fully tell this story. Wilkenfeld creates scene after scene of iconic Biblical moments depicted with vibrant colors, and textures demonstrated in the costumes, sets, projections and lights. The set design and projections by Jeff Caston are especially mesmerizing; his stimulating tableaus seamlessly transport audiences from creation, to Eden, to the Wasteland and to the great flood. The choreography by Michelle Elkin adds a layer of poetic movement and energy that blends contemporary, African and jazz enlivening Schwartz’s eclectic score.
Additionally, the use of children’s ensemble and off-stage choir here is purposeful and dramatic—you get the sense of the vast universe and the heavens with these additional voices. The Act Two opener is an immersive experience as the ensemble members venture out into the aisles literally bringing the show to audience. The orchestral interlude, “Return of the Animals” is another memorable moment as ensemble is transformed into animals that gather on stage like a pageant of beautiful creatures. The costumes by Noelle Raffy are clever and exquisite; everything fits right and adds so much dimension to the characters.
Off-Broadway sensation Misty Cotton (Eve/Mama Noah) gives an awe-inspiring performance offering a comprehensive display of her talents. She takes on the innocent and curious Eve delivering Schwartz’s memorable song “The Spark of Creation”; then in Act Two Cotton is the wise and experienced Mama leading us into the finale with a robust rendition of “Ain’t It Good”. Kevin McMahon also shows his dramatic dexterity playing both Adam and Noah. McMahon’s puts so much meaning in every note and lyric fulfilling every songs’ dramatic purpose—“A World Without You” and “What is He Waiting For?” are fantastic.
Norman Large (Father) as the creator is outstanding—his powerful and warm voice resonates boldly in every number, he gives us the perfect opening number in “Let There Be”. Ryan J. Driscoll (Cain/Japheth) is yet another outstanding voice, giving us a soaring and mighty version of the beloved song, “Lost in the Wilderness.” Natalia Vivino is a magnificent Yonah who takes the audience by surprise in her Act Two song, “Stranger to the Rain” bringing the audience to full applause with her fresh and poignant voice.
WHAT ABOUT THE MUSIC DIRECTOR?
Cassie Nickols returns to Cabrillo Music Theatre to lead this mega cast and orchestra from the keyboard, conducting as necessary. Nickols’ musical direction is precise and skillful, with so many large choral numbers and a cast of over fifty all the music is balanced and flowing.
Take a leave from the hustle and bustle of L.A. and go for a scenic drive to Thousand Oaks to see Cabrillo’s brilliant performance of Children of Eden. This production runs from April 8th-April 17th at the Kavli Theatre at the Thousand Oaks Civic Plaza, for more information and tickets visit: www.cabrillomusictheatre.com.