VILLANOVA THEATRE ENDS 2000-2001 SEASON ON A MUSICAL NOTE WITH CHILDREN OF EDEN
Villanova Theatre closes the 2000-2001 season with Children of Eden, an epic musical fable about parents, children, and faith inspired by the stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and Noah and the flood. Written by musical theatre dynamos John Caird (Jane Eyre, Les Miserables) and Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Pippin), and directed by Villanova Theatre Department Chairman Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., Children of Eden performs March 27-April 1, April 3-8, and April 17-22, 2001, at Vasey Hall on the Villanova University campus. Tickets are priced $5-$20 and may be ordered by calling the Villanova Theatre Box Office at 610-519-7474.
From the Garden of Eden to the tides that raise Noah’s Ark, Children of Eden is a sweeping musical interpretation of some of the most popular stories from the Old Testament. However, Children of Eden isn’t simply a “religious” musical, says Donohue, but one that spins an age-old tale of intergenerational conflicts and family patterns that are passed from parent to child - beginning with humanity’s first family: Adam and Eve and their sons Cain and Abel.
“What intrigued me was the thread of parent-child relationships that runs through Children of Eden,” said Donohue. “It is very much about how parents raise their children, and protect them, and how they must eventually let them go to make their own way in the world.”
Donohue, who directs Villanova Theatre’s annual musical, said a friend suggested he give Children of Eden a listen a few years ago. After premiering in London in 1991 to mixed reviews, Children of Eden received many productions in the U.S., most notably at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse in 1997. Donohue took his friend’s advice and listened to the Paper Mill Playhouse cast recording (RCA Victor) and found the music “very interesting...it appears to be simple but is really quite challenging,” he said. “It is bright, moves quickly, and the story is told through music so people of all ages will enjoy it.”
Donohue originally thought Children of Eden was one the lesser known musicals written by Schwartz, the prolific composer/lyricist who is well-known to parents and children for both his hit musicals and his contributions to Disney’s animated features.
“Of course, I soon discovered that Children of Eden is hugely popular,” he said. “People love this musical and love the stories told in it. The storytelling qualities of the production enable the designers to explore different techniques and design ideas. You’ll see the influence of Asian theatre in the production because of my own interests.”
Donohue holds an M.A. in Theatre from Catholic University of America and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois where, while researching his dissertation Shozo Sato and the Interculturation of Kabuki and Western Theatre, he toured Japan and performed in a Kabuki version of Achilles. He has been Chairperson of the Villanova University Theatre Department since 1992. At Villanova, he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in dramaturgy, musical theatre, and theatrical experience. Recent directing credits include A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Into The Woods, Evita, West Side Story, Candide, and Once on This Island. He has twice been nominated for Barrymore Awards for Outstanding Direction of a Musical by the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia.
Composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz’s career began in 1971 when he wrote the music and new lyrics to Godspell, for which he won numerous awards, including two Grammys. He went on to write the music and lyrics for Pippin, The Magic Show, and The Baker’s Wife, and adapted and directed a musical version of Studs Terkel’s Working, contributing four songs to the score. In the late 1980s, he wrote a one-act musical for children, The Trip, and provided lyrics for Charles Strouse’s musical Rags. He also contributed music to the off-Broadway revues Personals and A...My Name Is Still Alice. His collaborations with composer Alan Menken on the scores for the Disney animated features Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame earned him two Academy Awards. And, most recently, he wrote music and lyrics for six original songs for the DreamWorks SGK animated feature Prince of Egypt and wrote music and lyrics for an original television musical, Geppetto, for The Wonderful World of Disney. Currently, Schwartz is working on a new musical with writer Willie Holzman entitled Wicked.
Book writer John Caird is an honorary Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he directed Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, The Merry Wives of Windsor and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as well as many classic works and new plays. His productions of Les Miserables and Nicholas Nickleby, both created with Trevor Nunn, have won him numerous awards. He directed the original production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Song and Dance at London’s Palace Theatre and, with designer John Napier, he wrote and directed the Siegfried and Roy Spectacular, currently running in Las Vegas. His television work includes As You Like It, Nicholas Nickleby, and his adaptation of both parts of Shakespeare’s Henry IV, recently shown on the BBC. His published work includes a new version of The Beggar’s Opera with the composer Ilona Sekacz and a new version of Peter Pan. Most recently, Caird wrote the book for the musical Jane Eyre, which is currently playing on Broadway, wrote and directed a new version of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, which earned him a 2000 Olivier Award, and directed Bulwer-Lytton’s 1840 comedy Money; both Candide and Money ran in the repertoire of the Royal National Theatre where his version of Hamlet with Simon Russell Beale also played.
“Caird and Schwartz set out to create a spectacle with Children of Eden,” said Donohue. The cast of 30 in the Villanova Theatre production includes a chorus of 23 Storytellers. “Through sheer theatricality, the Storytellers transform the stage into many different settings, including the Garden of Eden and the animals who board the Ark.”
Given the epic scope of Children of Eden, most of Villanova Theatre’s current graduate students and all of its resident designers are involved in the production. The cast features graduate students Amy M. Acchione, Beth Bowden, Jennifer A. Brown, Sean Camoni, Christina DeAngelis, Jared Michael Delaney, Merry Farmer, Charlotte Cloe Fox, Darren Lenz, Hezekiah Lewis, Andrew Merkel, Kathryn C. Nocero, Antoinette Purnell, and Jennifer Sheridan. Other cast members include James Ambury, Juan Bertran, Anthony Bozzuto, Michele Calabro, Michael Dees, Nick Falco, Jenny Kulick, Nick Martorelli, Shannon McClain, Ed Milliner, Jason Moreen, Amanda Murray, Paul Recupero, Kate Ryan Singer, and Dana Tretta.
The production team is composed of Scenic Designer Kevin E. Baratier, Lighting Designer Jerold R. Forsyth, Costume Designer Janus Stefanowicz, Sound Designer Peter Rydberg, Choreographer Barby Hobyak, Dramaturg Séan Camoni, and Stage Manager Nora E. Berger-Green. Music Director Cal Brackin leads a five-piece orchestra.
Performances are held in Vasey Hall, Lancaster & Ithan Avenues, on the Villanova University campus. Showtimes are 8:00pm Tuesday - Saturday and 2:00pm Sunday. Tickets are priced $5-$20 (discounts for seniors, groups, and students) and may be purchased by calling the Villanova Theatre Box Office at 610-519-7474.
For more information, please contact the Villanova Theatre Box Office at (610) 519-7474. Or visit www.villanova.edu/artsci/theatre/.
Cast of Characters
|Adam/Noah||Jared Michael Delaney|
|Young Abel||Jack Hollingsworth|
|Young Cain||Jake Braithwaite|
|Seth's Wife||Kathryn C. Nocero|
|Aphra Kate||Ryan Singer|
|Snake||Amy M. Acchione|
|Jennifer Ann Brown|
|Storytellers||Amy M. Acchione|
|Juan M. Bertrán Astor|
|Jennifer Ann Brown|
|Charlotte Cloe Fox|
|Shannon Marie McClain|
|Kathryn C. Nocero|
|Antoinette "Toni" Purnell|
|Kate Ryan Singer|