Friday, March 15, 2013

Snakes, Floods and Flat Notes

Review: Children of Eden at Contra Costa Civic Theater

Children of Eden program coverIt seems silly to be posting a theater review after the production’s stopped running.  But don’t worry; if you didn’t see it, you didn’t miss anything. 

I love my little community theater, but their musicals are usually pretty mediocre.  In an area with a lot of theaters and a lot of paying theaters I guess it must be hard to find good singers.  That being said, there were three performers who did a great job.

Eve, Cain and a Graceful Horse – Outstanding
Everyone Else, eh

The actress playing Eve I had last seen as a prostitute in No Sex Please, We’re British.  It took me a little while to get past that, but she did job as both Eve and Noah’s wife.  The actress, Jade Shojaee, has a beautiful voice and did some amazing riffs in the gospel-styled “Ain’t It Good.”  She proved her acting skills to me back when she played the daughter in Steel Magnolias and was just as on point here.  Too bad the gentleman with whom she had most of her duets struggled to carry a tune.

The gentleman who played Cain and Noah’s son, Japheth, was incredible.  What an amazing voice!  I sort of wished he’d been cast as Noah and Adam, but the parts he had and the angrier songs were better suited to his voice.  I hope to see more of Mr. Nikita Burshteyn at this theater.

I don’t know the name of the other actress that really impressed me.  She was one of the extras, about 14, clearly a dancer, just passing the awkward pre-teen years.  You could tell she’s going to be a beautiful young woman.  She was so graceful in everything she did, she made some of the other extras look quite clumsy.  She had a short but very nice dance solo as a horse before getting on the Ark and some short single dancing parts while controlling the dove.  I hope to see more of her in the local theater as well.

Other than those three, the show was pretty so-so, or worse.  Some of the extras were trying too hard to be sopranos and most of them were trying to be soloists.  It hurt, as did Adam’s long notes.  And several of the extras were distractingly unattractive.  But, even if the show were done by a top cast, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Odd Show on It's Own

The music is disjointed, feeling as if it’s been pulled from other shows.  The serpent sings jazz reminiscent of Chicago – and really, “the devil’s music” for the devilish snake? – There’s a solo by Japheth’s wife that sounds like it might as well be Eponine from Les Mis,  Some song in the middle was very reminiscent of The Brady Bunch, complete with quick outstretched arm flashes.  I don’t know what they were singing, but I was hearing “gonna keep on, keep on, keep on movin’…”  And the last song, which was some uplifting, everything-is-going-be-awesome message that didn’t seem to fit with the storyline, got Sesame Street’s “We are All Earthlings” stuck in my head.

Despite this show being rather unremarkable, I did have a nice time with the group from church that went, and I do enjoy my season tickets.  I’d much rather risk $20 at a theater I can walk to than $50 to $100 at something in San Francisco that I may not like.

Next up is Next to Normal, a show I saw in New York and loved.  I’m a bit nervous since it’s another musical, but at least I know I’ll like the underlying story.

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