Note: This review was posted on the KC Stage review system.
Children of Eden, book by John Caird, music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz; directed by Charlie Piane. Produced by Piane Productions (Kansas City). First produced 1991. (Seen July 15, 2011.)
Imagine, if you will, the story of creation. From out of darkness, comes light. From out of chaos, comes order. From out of silence, comes sound.
Children of Eden, the musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by John Caird, is a two act musical: while the first act is the story of Adam and Eve and the second act the story of Noah, the whole tale more about parents and children and less about religion. It’s the story of creation, but not in the way you expect.
Piane Productions’ presentation is advertised as the U.S. symphonic premiere, a new orchestration for 55 musicians according to the Piane Productions website. Starring Nathan Granner as Father, Cary Mock as Adam/Noah, and Erikka Dunn as Eve/Mama Noah, it also featured the Kansas City Boys Choir and the Kansas City Girls Choir, which brought a certain lightness and youth to the production.
While it was a symphonic production, the use of the dual tiered set (with a rock/tree in the middle, using the space well) and the use of animal print/earth tones for the wardrobes of all but the main characters brought a sense of order to what could have been a chaotic overwhelming of the Music Hall stage, due to such a large cast and the orchestra on stage.
But it was the sound that killed the production. The orchestra overwhelmed the singing more times than I could count, and the mics went out mid song too many times for such a professional production. (Thankfully, almost every time it happened, the singer was well-versed in projection and we were still able to somewhat hear what was going on.) The sound levels seemed to be all over the place, and there were a few times I could hear the actors back stage over their live mics. And don’t get me started on the ‘Windows closing’ sound heard over the sound system while the orchestra played after the curtain call.
The singers (especially our leads) did a fabulous job, with my only negatives with their portrayals being simple nitpicks.
Cary Mock, in Act I, played Adam a little too innocent at first, but he ‘wised’ up fairly quickly — finally shining during “A World Without You”. His portrayal of Noah in Act II was so different that it was not difficult to see a different character.
Erikka Dunn did a good job as Eve, making the questioning a simple case of innocence. She seemed to be a bit too nervous and held back during “The Spark of Creation”, when she obviously has the power needed (and finally does powerhouse a bit during “Children of Eden”). Maybe she was afraid she’d blow the mics?
Nathan Granner’s portrayal of Father, at first fun and fantastic, comes across more angry and less exasperated, making the stories more about disobedience and the pride of parenthood and less about children growing up and parents learning to let go. But he embodies the role with such surety that even when the sound went away, he had presence and confidence — and style.
The five part snake had obviously way too much fun, but as a result had apple issues during “In Pursuit of Excellence” — and their choreography probably could’ve used another couple of days of rehearsal, as they needed to be more in sync. The kids, especially in “The Naming” in Act I, are frackin’ adorable and utilized well in the production, and “The Return of the Animals” — with the parade of the animals — was worthy of the Music Hall stage.
I wanted to like this show. I really did. I raved about the Carlsen Center’s production back in 2007, which also had Cary Mock in it. And as mentioned above, it had a lot of good in it. But the problems with the sound made the whole show go rapidly downhill, especially since by Act II any problems should have been fixed during intermission. The sound kept the show from being awesome, and instead made it wind up as merely decent.
Children of Eden will be performing until the July 24, and more information can be found at www.pianeproductions.com (link no longer active).