Musicals are like hothouse flowers. They can take years of tender care to make blossom. Children of Eden is a full length musical, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell) and book by John Caird, which has been germinating since its inception as a project for a high school theater camp in 1986. It received its first full production in 1991 under Caird’s direction in London for the Royal Shakespeare Company, but closed quickly in the wake of generally negative reviews.
However, everything has its season. I think this is the time for Children of Eden to blossom on the Broadway stage…or at least, Broadway in Chicago. This presentation is the admirable effort of Producer Mark Michelson’s Chicago Theater Fund, and Onesti Entertainment, the company of entrepreneur Ron Onesti, who has purchased both the Arcada Theater in St. Charles and the Des Plaines Theater with an eye towards bringing first class entertainment to these suburban Chicago venues.
They had originally planned to present a pre-Broadway production at the Arcada with Broadway veteran Norm Lewis, which was sidelined by the pandemic. So it is to their credit that they have taken this unusual step forward by presenting a fully staged concert at one of Chicago’s major Broadway style venues, the Cadillac Palace Theater. Children of Eden was given two performances there last Saturday in the hope of launching towards a major run. If the quality of this concert version is any indication, a Broadway run could well be in its future.
Children of Eden, based on the biblical book of Genesis, begins with the creation of the world, through the fall from the Garden of Adam and Eve, the murder of Abel and the mark of Cain, and the salvation of the human race through the Ark of Noah. It’s necessarily a more reverent and somber show than Schwartz’s other religious themed musical, Godspell. But hey, we’re talking Old Testament God of Vengeance vs. warm and fuzzy You-know-who. It was also written some twenty years later by a more mature and seasoned artist.
This production, billed as a concert, would have qualified as a full production in my mind if not for the books in hand, and the music stands that came in and out. Kyle Hass (Artistic Producer), Derek Van Barham (Director), and Nicholas Ranauro (Choreographer) created a richly beautiful evening in light, movement and song, so much so that any more scenery would really have seemed superfluous. The show began with some of the the most beautiful and awe inspiring projections I’ve seen on any stage, filling the theater with the wonder of Creation, the beauty of the Garden, and the pain of its destruction. An onstage chorus of over 30 actor/dancers was supplemented at the end of the first act by a small army of local choristers lining the theater walls. Whether collectively representing the Snake in the Garden, or dancing in Fosse-esque costumes, this talented ensemble brought every sung and spoken image vibrantly to life. Their soloists also all gave beautiful vocal performances.
Leading the outstanding cast of players was the magnificent actor-singer Randal Keith. Mr. Keith logged nearly three thousand performances as Jean Valjean in Les Miz, one of which I was privileged to see some fifteen years ago in Los Angeles, not to mention playing the Phantom and three of the other principal roles in the touring company. In short, this man has major chops. His powerful baritenor voice was the glue that held this company together.
As the show illustrates, it’s not easy being God. On one hand, God manages to be what we all want our parents to be: Loving and kind, warm and well-meaning. On the other hand, this God shares the flaw of all parents: That he wants his children to be copies in his image, and expects them to bend entirely to his will throughout their lifetimes. We all know how well that turned out.
In their dual roles as Adam/Noah and Eve/Mama Noah respectively, David Phelps, formerly of the Gaither Vocal Band, with his creamy, three octave voice, and Grammy winning artist Michelle Williams were equally beautifully voiced as singers and nuanced as actors. Particularly strong among the supporting roles was internet singing sensation Sam Tsui as Cain/Japheth. Mr. Tsui is a young tenor with a powerful emotional range. He is also a very compelling actor, who galvanized the attention of the audience as the darkest and most challenged characters in the story. As Yonah, the“daughter of the race of Cain” who throws a rock into God’s plans to maintain the purity of the human race, American gospel singer Koryn Mattanah Hawthone sang well and was credibly sincere as an actress, although the thinly written part didn’t give her much chance to shine.
The prayerful origins of this show make the material very reverent, and at times simplistically straight forward in its observations. The female characters in particular are nothing more than good wives and mothers, and there is no modern perspective challenging their thinking, or their traditional roles. Don’t come looking for the “woke” bible here.
But Children of Eden is, in its own way, a very good show, and its popularity in amateur productions attests to that. However, despite a handful of compelling songs that have made it into the musical theater zeitgeist, like “Lost in the Wilderness,” It’s not as memorable or well known musically as other scores by Schwartz. The analogies drawn between God the Father and parents in general in the book and lyrics may not be as wittily observed as in a Sondheim show; but they are still compelling. Even as a concert version it is a stirring and engrossing entertainment. If you come to this production hoping to be moved and awe struck, you will be. Just don’t come looking for the sacrilegious snark of The Book of Mormon.
At the end of Children of Eden, God accepts the faults, errors in judgment, and determined independence of man. He makes his peace with the idea that we won’t always do what he wishes, and forgives us for that. But every time I listen to the news these days, I wonder if God might change his mind again. As I look at the increasingly troubled world around us, I can’t help but wonder if we should be building another ark. I often ask myself not if, but when, the wrath of God will return. Seeing this show in this beautiful revival made me reflect on that question even more deeply.
So it will do you well to plan a pilgrimage to a performance of Children of Eden when it returns again. Just don’t eat that apple before you come.
Inside the Roku Holiday Bash to Celebrate a Season of Giving
Talk about a perfect way to celebrate the holidays!
Roku’s holiday event last night dazzled the tastemakers and influencers of New York City.
Guests were thrilled to enjoy the splendid soiree that showcased Roku’s full ecosystem of products, leading operating system, and newly launched All Things Food and All Things Home destinations.
Roku is a one-stop-shop for all of your gift giving needs with a range of products to choose from no matter your budget, including TVs, streaming players, audio devices, and smart home products.
Be sure to check out Roku’s Holiday Promotions:
- Now through 12/02: $15 off Express 4K+, $20 off RSS 4K
- Now through 12/09: $30 off Roku Ultra
- 12/03 through 12/30: $5 off Express, $10 off Express 4K+, $10 off RSS 4K
- 12/17 through 12/30: $30 off Roku Streambar
The Glorious Corner
TAP 2 — (Via Rock Cellar) Doubling down after a May 2022 report that indicated everything was a go for a sequel to 1984’s classic comedy/music industry satire This Is Spinal Tap, filmmaker Rob Reiner has now confirmed that plans are taking shape in a big way.
Not only is the sequel on tap (pun intended) to begin filming in early 2024, but Reiner recently told comedian/podcast host Richard Herring that “everybody’s back” for the sequel. This no doubt refers to principal cast members Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest, though Tony Hendra (who portrayed the band’s manager, Ian Faith, passed away in 2021).
The U.K.’s Guardian notes that the plot will reportedly center on Faith’s death, after which his widow inherits a contract that requires the band to do one last concert. Reiner is also due to return in the character of film-maker Marty DiBergi, a figure supposedly based on Martin Scorsese, who had directed celebrated music documentary The Last Waltz in 1976.
What’s more, Reiner also spilled the beans that appearances from Sirs Paul McCartney and Elton John and Garth Brooks are in the works too, among what one must assume will be a million other amusing cameos. After all, a film as beloved and influential as the original This Is Spinal Tap counts pretty much every living musician as a fan (give or take), so you know the sequel will hold nothing back when it comes to the entertainment factor.
In the podcast, Reiner also talked about This Is Spinal Tap’s remarkable afterlife, culminating in selection for the National Film Registry in 2002, after its initially unfavourable reception on its first release. “To wind up in the National Film Registry, that’s bizarre,” Reiner said. “We previewed it in a theatre in Dallas, Texas, and the people didn’t know what the heck they were looking at. They came up to me afterwards and said, ‘I don’t understand, why would you make a movie about a band that no one has ever heard of, and they are so bad? Why would you ever do that? Why don’t you make a movie about the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?’ I would say, ‘It’s satire,’ and I tried to explain. But over the years people got it, and started to like it.”
Personally, I found the 1984 original movie just hilarious. Aside from a great send-up of the music biz, the cameos were just fascinating: Paul Shaffer as PR-man Artie Fufkin; Dana Carvey and Billy Crystal as ‘mime’ waiters; Fred Willard; Anjelica Houston; Russ Kunkel; Danny Kortchmar and Fran Drescher as promo-gal Bobbi Fleckman … all just inspired.
Reiner’s on a roll – his Albert Brooks doc Defending My Life is sensational. A must-see.
Maybe an update of The Monkees’ HEAD next?
SHORT TAKES — Mark Bego’s Joe Cocker tome hit #4 on theAmazon charts this week. Here’s a great review from Goldmine on the book by their Lee Zimmerman: https://l.messenger.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.goldminemag.com%2Freviews%2Fjoe-cocker-book-shines-light-on-unfortunate-undercurrents-of-a-stars-career&h=AT2zaG2QKuxuHdpJO1nPHKaiO7IWkbAHCBRAeq3m4-J45axSc_wBott7ABve8Wcd7GpQC13gybDWb2Hale6D809pTdtqqmpDoxC4u6FLA7SNNJ2jHbVKKpSaH1kxX4Ide1AyXDJXSZL2idNWvOch4A
… Micky Dolenz sang “Silly Love Songs” at Monday’s Troubadour benefit for Denny Laine and our spy said he really rocked it. Maybe a Dolenz Sings McCartney album is next? … So, Merriam-Webster’s word of the year is authentic? Interesting choice for sure …
Writer and reporter Pablo Guzman passed this last weekend. An original member of The Young Lords, Guzman was a fierce fighter and brilliant writer. On Fox 5/Good Day NY for decades, he most recently was a reporter at WCBS. Here’s the Daily News take: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12799071/Legendary-NYC-news-anchor-Pablo-Guzman-dies-aged-73-Big-Apple-veteran-reporter-dubbed-son-Bronx-founded-Puerto-Rican-activist-group-Young-Lords-journalist.html …
And it’s official, the NY-launch for the Mark Bego Joe Cocker book will be Tuesday, January 9 at Steve Walter’s Cutting Room.
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Sara Gore; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Daryl Estrea; Tony King; Ace Shortly; Kjersti and Jeremy Long; Debbie Gibson; Van Dean; Liz Skollar; Maude Adams; Robert Vaughn; Steve McQueen; Zach Martin; Coati Mundi; Avery Sharp; Steve Walter; Gary Gershoff; Jane Blunkell; Kimberly Cornell; Paul Iorio; Lee Jeske; MArt Ostrow; Peter Shendell; Sharon White; and ZIGGY!
Countdown to Christmas: A Sweet Treat For Christmas and Chunakah
24 days to go! Every year people panic to find the perfect gift. We at T2C have been collecting idea’s all year long to bring you the perfect gift guide at all price levels. When you’re at the end of your rope trying to find the perfect Christmas present this year, come to this guide for some great suggestions.
I am starting first with Chanukah which starts December 7th. Here are great little surprises and treats. First up are these festive Chocolate Dreidels ($14) are handmade with the finest chocolate, and filled with milk chocolate gold-foiled Gelt coins for a surprise inside that never disappoints. They make a great addition at any Chanukah celebration everyone will love! Each Dreidel contains 3 coins. Gluten Free. Kosher Certified.
Then there are the adorable Menorah Pops. At $4.95 its a sin not to indulge.
Their unique selection of Chocolate Gift Boxes, Towers and Gift Baskets stand out among New York’s discerning chocolate enthusiasts. We loved the box of 30 Chocolate Mini Presents at $25 these bite-sized solid premium milk chocolates wrapped in Italian foil are perfect for filling stockings or party favors. Gluten Free. Kosher Certified.
Li-Lac Chocolates are fresh, gourmet chocolate hand-crafted in small batches for exceptional quality and superior taste. They also come in dairy free, sugar free and Kosher certified making them perfect for the family. These chocolates are creamy, tasty and so delightfully sinful.
Handmade in Brooklyn, not only are you supporting a local business but freshness is guaranteed.
Li Lac Chocolates are now my go to chocolate place for gifts.
Ziploc and Milk Bar Host Holiday Mixer
It was the holiday mixer that hit all the sweet notes.
Milk Bar founder Christina Tosi and Ziploc hosted a fun interactive holiday party at the New York City Milk Bar flagship location on November 29. Attendees at the special affair got to hear Christina’s tips and tricks for the holiday season, as well as see Ziploc’s latest innovation, the Stay Open Design bags.
“Ziploc bags have been a favorite tool of mine since I started baking because they are so versatile and easy to use. From rolling out and freezing dough to ensuring my baked goods always stays fresh, there’s no shortage of ways that I use Ziploc® at home and in our bakeries,” she said. “The new Ziploc® Stay Open Design bags help give me an extra set of hands in the kitchen. As soon as I tried them, I was immediately reminded of mixing puppy chow in a Ziploc® bag as a child, and I knew this would be another perfect collaboration.”
Teaming up for the release the bakery’s first-ever, limited-edition take on “puppy chow” dessert – Ziploc x Milk Bar Holiday Mix – is a perfect way to start December. Perfect for festive gatherings, hosting gifts, stocking stuffers, family road trips and long sessions on the couch watching holiday movies, the offering features popular holiday flavors, including corn square cereal, white chocolate, cookie butter, sprinkles, and sugar cookie pieces.
Each bag of the Ziploc® x Milk Bar Holiday Mix comes pre-packaged in a quart-size Ziploc® Stay Open Design storage bag. Ziploc®‘s latest innovation helps ensure the contents will stay fresh and easily snackable thanks to a cuffed opening and patented stand up bottom that keeps it upright and open for filling and sharing with confidence. For the month of December, pick up a bag at the New York City, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles Milk Bar stores for just $7, plus tax, while supplies last.
And, for anyone in NYC, starting December 1, you can also book the perfect holiday activity, a build-your-own holiday mix-making experience! Attendees will learn Christina Tosi’s tips and tricks with the Milk Bar expert bakers and walk away with a gallon-size bag of holiday mix gifting for their own enjoyment.
For those not located near a Milk Bar store, don’t worry! Milk Bar and Ziploc® are sharing the exclusive recipe for free on both of their websites – a wonderful opportunity for a festive home activity with friends and family. Ziploc® also created a one-stop shop, to easily find all the ingredients needed at Amazon, Target or Walmart, including Ziploc® Stay Open Design bags that allow for easily folding, filling, scooping and snacking.
Photos by AP for Ziploc®
Avengers Tower Sets Meet And Greet With Signing
C. B. Cebulski, Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics, and The LEGO Group Senior Graphic Designer Mark Tranter will be at the Fifth Ave LEGO Store this Friday, December 1st from 5pm-6pm signing the Avengers Tower set—the most iconic building in the Avengers Universe, with 5,201 pieces and an all-star cast of 31 figures.
The Avengers Tower, formerly known as Stark Tower, was a high-rise building complex located in Manhattan. Constructed by Tony Stark, the tower was powered by an Arc Reactor that made it capable of running itself for over a year. The top ten floors housed the research and development initiatives.
Following the dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D., Stark Tower became the main headquarters of the Avengers. However, after the Ultron Offensive, Stark refurbished a Stark Industries warehouse upstate into the Avengers Compound to use as their primary base while Avengers Tower was repurposed for Stark Industries’ use. In the aftermath of the Avengers Civil War, Stark sold the tower and moved all of its equipment to the Avengers Compound.
By 2024, the tower, under its new ownership, had gone through extensive construction and renovation.
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