Monday, July 23, 2012

'Children of Eden' featured stand-out performances

Noah's family,  Photo by Allen Eagles
By Cheryl Thornburg
It’s always exciting for me to see a show for the first time, particularly one that I know little about.  Such was the case with “Children of Eden,” Fleetwood Community Theatre’s summer offering. I knew it was based on the stories of Genesis and Noah -- stories that have all the passion, deceit and thrills of modern day movies -- but everyone knows the stories, the characters. How do you make it into contemporary entertainment?
Stephen Schwartz, whose better-known work is "Wicked," has managed to do just that, combining traditional Bible stories with themes of complex relationships, family dynamics and love, that transcend time.
FCT’s  “Children of Eden," featured an extremely talented cast to recreate the familiar characters with a very personal approach.  At the center of it all is God, referred to as Father in the play, as he deals with Adam and Eve in the first act and Noah and his family in the second act. Daniel Petrovich plays the at-first doting, then vengeful father to perfection.
Dealing with his love and wrath are Zach Petrovich as Adam and Emily Wisser as Eve. The trio was exceptional in the beautiful ballad “World Without You” and were fun to watch in “Naming” as Father lets Adam and Eve name all the animals, an energetic bunch of critters brought life with some creative costumes. Special kudos to the tigers, who crept across the stage with catlike stealth.
Enter the notorious snake (played in this version of the story by a quartet of slinky links, Gretchen Patti, Michelle Krueger, Melissa Kierzkowski, and Mary McCormick) who convinces Eve to taste the fruit of the forbidden Tree of Knowledge in “In Pursuit of Excellence.”
Adam and Eve are cast out of Eden and struggle to survive in the wasteland where they have two sons, Cain and Abel, whose age-old story is retold in an up-close-and-personal style  Dane Santa, plays Cain, the more adventurous of the brothers, and Jeremy Hesketh plays Abel, the more devout brother. The two stand out in “Lost in the Wilderness” and Dane Santa also kicks off the second act, along with Gretchen Patti, as soloists for the energetic and infectious “Generations” as the Storytellers recount the passing generations down to Noah.
Bob Aregood brings a sincerity to his “Noah” and his smooth tenor gives a poignancy to “Gathering Storm” and “Hardest Part of Love,” both duets with Petrovich’s Father.
Once again conflict arises as Noah’s son Japeth, played by Matthew Phillips, wants to marry Yonah, who is of the cursed line of Cain. And again a son defies the father and he sneaks Yonah onto the Ark.
Yonah is played by Amanda Lyn Hornberger who gives arguably one of the best performances of the show with her solo, “Stranger to the Rain.”  She and Phillips also turn in an exquisite duet, “In Whatever Time We Have.”
The second act features tender ballads, but also some hand-clapping, foot-stomping numbers like “Aint It Good” with Jessica Pennington heading up the ensemble and electrifying the audience.
The large cast also included Aaron Poper, Jeffrey Kline, David Hornberger, Matthew Hayes, Erin Aregood, Donna Torres, David Erb, Austin Highly, Will Patti, Brian Miller, Dawn Hornberger, Jessie Hornberger, Laura Jones, Caroline McCormick, Lilly Moyer, Nadine Poper, Emily Jones, Casey Krueger, Michael Rufo, and Kylie Shroeder.
Director Debbi Silas and music director Christopher Hoster, have put together a superb summer production.  Unfortunately for local audiences, the show had only a 3-day run, July 19-21, but FCT has more to come.
Mark your calendars for Sept. 28 and 29 for FCT’s annual Spaghetti and Song, with its 2012 theme, “Love is In The Air,” at St. Paul’s UCC in Fleetwood. I dubbed last year’s event the “best entertainment bargain of the year.”  It’s well-worth the trip to Fleetwood.


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