'Children of Eden' Manassas Park High
"In the beginning . . . God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God . . . " We all know the story. Fast-forward roughly seven days, 6,000 years and a few hundred evolutionary changes later, and a new version of the story emerges in the form of the musical "Children of Eden" at Manassas Park High School
"Children of Eden," by Stephen Schwartz and John Caird, freely chronicles the first book of the Bible, Genesis, from the Creation story to Noah and the ark.
From his first appearance on stage as God, Henry Abuto wowed the audience with his alluring voice and overwhelming presence. His children, Eve and Adam (Malia Schneider and Emmanuel Asiedu, who doubled as Noah and his wife), played off each other with ease as they explored Eden and the world while interacting with each of God's creations. The first son, Cain (Nathan Waters, who subsequently also played Noah's son), stood out with his heartfelt, powerful performance.
The central performers were supported by cast members who took on multiple personas. Especially during their interpretation of the first sin and the snake at the Tree of Knowledge, the storytellers were able to bring each animal to life through their creative movements.
In particular, two young women stood out: Tricia Bernal and Shawna Smith. Bernal amazed the audience as she emphatically told the story of Adam and Eve's struggle in the Wasteland. Smith, a marvelous dancer, stood out in every movement and acted as a definite leader throughout the performance.
Although some words were lost due to sound difficulties or turned backs, from a technical aspect the show was done well. Lighting designer Edwin Gonzalez made use of a scrim and deep red lights to create a silhouette effect for the show's more dramatic scenes. The set, although simple, allowed for the complex story to unfold with ease and was highlighted by intriguing rock formations.
The basic use of color for the chorus costumes was a good choice. At first glance, one would believe that the chorus had simply thrown on miscellaneous colored shirts, but during the finale it became clear that designer Madison Moore put in an immense effort, right down to color coordinating the separate tribes that would spawn off the sons of Noah to populate the earth.
As Genesis says, "Indeed, it was very good!"
What has murder, betrayal, God and catchy songs? "Children of Eden." This musical, by Stephen Schwartz and John Caird, is an adaptation of the Old Testament smattered with 1960s style and music. From Adam and Eve to Noah's ark, the audience gets a new take on a very old story.
Costumes and set design were simple and versatile in this production. The uncomplicated costumes allowed the ensemble to play a variety of roles, from townspeople to frogs. The set design was perfect for demonstrating the unspoiled nature of the Garden of Eden as well as the utter desertion in the Wasteland.
Playing the part of God must be difficult, but Henry Abuto and his expressive voice did the part justice. The relationship between God and Adam was one of the strongest in the production. Adam (Emmanuel Asiedu) did a great job of using facial expressions to show frustration and acceptance of God's will.
The opposite of Adam's acceptance of God is demonstrated by the obstinate and hot-tempered character of Cain (Nathan Waters). There's a lot of background to the part of Cain, but Waters carried himself with an attitude of arrogance, which helped to flesh out the character.
Cain's brother, Abel (John Oliver), had some wonderful reactions. Even when not speaking, Oliver was reacting to the scene around him. It is little details like this that make any production seem more realistic and believable.
Lighting was another element that advanced the mood of the production. The use of reds and blues accented the overall theme of a scene and allowed the audience to better relate to the characters.
Manassas Park's production of "Children of Eden" gave its cast and crew a chance to stretch themselves and "create" in new ways.