Tony Flook : Reproduced by permission of the Surrey Mirror
The musical “Children of Eden” ran for a mere three months in the West End, in 1991 and then slipped into near oblivion. Why? In its favour is the compelling story, based on the opening chapters of Genesis, from the creation to the landing of the ark on Mount Ararat. The score, though, tends to lack lightness and the lyrics are generally worthy and righteous rather than sparkling.
It needed a group as talented and committed as The Opera Club to bring life to what could otherwise be a relatively static, potentially slow-moving show.
Ensemble work could not have been stronger, from the impressive opening number, “Let There Be” via the rousing title song at the climax of Act l to the hope-filled finale “In the Beginning”.
Along the way, every one of the twenty plus performers in named parts brought character and understanding to their role.
Kevin Stuart and Fiona Thompson made an early impression as Adam and Eve. Initially innocent, they expressed their belief in “Grateful Children”. Peter Thomas, a creepy, sibilant snake and his four acolytes spoiled their idyllic existence “In Pursuit of Excellence”.
Francis Radford and Matt Kefford portrayed the adult Cain and Abel as friendly brothers until their fatal falling out.
Nick Lucas was a strong-minded Noah, with a powerful singing voice driven to save his family – and the animals (imaginatively introduced by four light-footed dancers) – from the impending flood.
Jenny Clarke, Yonah, brought particular feeling to the wistful “Stranger to the Rain”. She and Gareth Heale as Japhet showed the depth of their mutual love in “Whatever Time We Have”.
Juliette Ewbank (Mama Noah) cast aside all inhibition as she led the company in the liveliest number, the show-stopping revivalist-style “Ain’t it Good?”.
Over it all, Chris Whitebread’s clear enunciation and commanding singing voice brought so much authority to his role of Father to the extent that his presence was felt even when he wasn’t actually on stage.
Ian Fagg’s imaginative lighting created the perfect atmosphere for every scene.
The artistic team of Angela Barker (Musical Director), Helen Hardwick (Director) and Audrey Lucas (Choreographer) have every reason to be proud of this production.
Any plans the Council may have to close The Harlequin must be kicked into touch for as long as such high calibre shows are staged there.
Comments from one of our guests
From Councillor Julian Ellacott
I thoroughly enjoyed the performance, which reaffirmed my view of the strength of local talent, and the importance of having a local venue in which to showcase it.
I will do all I can to ensure that Chris Wait and the other representatives of the users are involved as further discussions take place about future regeneration in Redhill – so that we can secure the continuation of (if not betterment of) theatre facilities in the town.