11th Hour Children of Eden Takes Full Advantage of Concert Format
The 11th Hour Theatre Company demonstrated to me that a good concert version can tell the story as well as a full production, and a great concert can sometimes exceed a full production. I have been seeing 11th Hour productions since its inception. They have represented (among other companies) what is innovative and excellent in Philadelphia theater. Director, Megan Nicole O’Brien’s production of Children of Eden is a wonderful example that the meat of any production is the actors.
Children of Eden is somewhat of a theatrical anomaly. With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by noted director John Caird, it never played on Broadway because of poor reviews and a short run at London’s West End. It had a famous production at Paper Mill Playhouse, but its real success has come in regional and community theaters. Act I tell the story of creation focused on Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel while Act II focuses on the story of Noah and his children. It has often been viewed as a show whose score outshines its book, and the 11th Hour production lends further credence to that theory.
Director O’Brien takes full advantage of both her talented cast and impressive staff. Amanda Jensen’s lighting design helps create mood to complement the action on stage. Gina Giachero not only gets the most out the talented voices, but she also conducts a wonderful band. Mark Valenzuela’s sound design keeps voices and music balanced throughout the performance. O’Brien provides just the right amount of mimed action to support the music. The actions are both cleverly conceived and deftly performed.
This production also brings several new faces to the Philly theater scene. One of them is Christopher McCrewell who sings the role of Father. In addition to his strong voice, his face and body language sells each number and provides nuance. This same thing can be said of the entire company. They are all acting vocally.
Scott Guthrie, as Adam and Noah, is also new to Philadelphia. He does a great job of delineating both the differences and similarities of his characters. The same can be said of the immensely talented Kyleen Shaw whose strength comes through in both her singing and acting. Robi Hager is impressive as Cain and Japeth. He handles the difficult roles as the dissonant with great aplomb. Philip Anthony Wilson is especially effective as the innocent Abel. Jack Henry does a great job with the role of Jonah. They convey a real love for Jappeth and a real sense of being punished for something they didn’t do. Kudos to 11th Hour for incorporating the correct pronouns into the script.
The ensemble is extremely talented and each one brings his, hers or their unique talent to the show. It is best illustrated by the snake. Each has a part of the song and each one brings their unique style and skill to create a wonderful whole. The members of the ensemble are: Janet Rowley Klimowski, Sebastian Diaquoi, Zoe Hunchak, Adi Mullen, Caitlin Navarrete, Francesca Nong, Andrew Patterson, Darius Redmon, and JJ Vavrik.
Children of Eden runs only until December 9th, but it is well worth the trip to the Drake proscenium stage to enjoy this lovely production. For tickets call 267-987-9865 or go the website www.11thhourtheatrecompany.org.
All photos are by Daniel Kontz Photography