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'Children of Eden' opens Friday at Eastlight Theatre

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Since creation, parents have tried to protect their children from the evils of the world, only to one day be forced to let them go their own way.

Often, eating the apple is the path chosen despite warnings of the consequences.

That is the story of Adam and Eve and other passages in the Book of Genesis; it also is the basis of the musical "Children of Eden," which opens Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Eastlight Theatre in East Peoria. Tickets are $19 and are on sale now; call 699-7469.

"Children of Eden," directed by Adam Sitton, will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday, March 28, 29, 30 and 31 and at 2 p.m. on March 25 in the East Peoria High School auditorium. It is the first time it is being produced at Eastlight.

"This musical takes the Book of Genesis and builds on the family aspects of it," said  Sitton, who is making his directorial debut with this show. "But it digs deeper into the aspect of parents letting their children go when they grow up, letting them make their own decisions even when it's probably not the right one.

"It tells us that at the end of the day, the children grow wings and fly away."

Sitton said the show is "loosely based" on Genesis in that it takes the basic themes of the Biblical book and expands on them to make the stories in "Children of Eden," stories that resound in today's world.

"If someone comes in to see this show expecting it to be a word-for-word portrayal of what is written in the Bible they will be surprised," Sitton said.

Act 1 focuses on the story of Adam and Eve, the consequences they faced defying their father — God, of course — and their own handling of Cain and Abel.

Act 2 takes on the story of Noah's Ark and shows the difference in a child faithfully obeying his father — again, God — but still having to deal with his own family.

As is called for in the script, the same actors portray Adam and Eve and Noah and Mama Noah and their respective children.

At Eastlight, Anthony Hendricks portrays Adam and Noah while Jamika Russell portrays Eve and Mama Noah. Jarod Hazzard portrays Cain and Japeth and Kyle King is Abel and Ham.

The father, as God is called in the play, is portrayed by Mike Reams, a veteran performer and director of many musicals on Peoria-area stages.

"I am extremely excited about this cast. We have several veterans who are local favorites and newcomers to area stages who are showcasing their talents. One newcomer is Jamika Russell, who is doing her first musical here and her voice is just gold," Sitton said.

The music and lyrics for "Children of Eden" were written by Stephen Schwartz, best known for his musicals "Wicked" and "Godspell". The book was written by John Caird.

Still, it was not a huge hit on Broadway or in London, where it debuted. It is, however, a favorite among community theaters, Sitton said.

"The music in this show is the closest sounding to 'Wicked' you will hear. The audience members who are familiar with 'Wicked' will really hear some similar elements in the music. I predict a lot of people will go out and buy the 'Children of Eden' soundtrack after hearing the music," he said.

In fact, he added, the music is what turned him on to "Children of Eden" the first time he heard it when he was in high school. It's also what made him want to direct the show at Eastlight.

Sitton performed in the show in another venue several years ago, portraying Adam and Japeth.

Mitch Colgan is the music director for the show while Kates Sitton choreographed.

Paul Gordon is editor of The Peorian. He can be reached at 692-7880 or editor@thepeorian.com

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).