INNOVAtheatre presents Stephen Schwartz’s musical ‘Children of Eden’

Biblical tale slated July 9-18 at Middletown’s Sorg Opera House

“Wicked” composer Stephen Schwartz’s 1991 musical “Children of Eden,” based on the Book of Genesis, will be presented by INNOVAtheatre July 9-18 at the historic Sorg Opera House in Middletown.

Featuring a book by John Caird (“Les Misérables”), the inspiring musical chronicles the stories of Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, and Noah as they navigate life and the consequences of their decisions under the loving, watchful eye of Father. With a group of Storytellers guiding as narrators, themes of love, disillusionment, jealousy, prejudice, hope, faith, and community prove impactful and relatable.

Schwartz’s terrific score, containing some of the finest numbers in his acclaimed repertoire, includes grand opener “Let There Be” as well as the beautiful title number in addition to “The Spark of Creation,” “A World Without You,” “Lost in the Wilderness,” “Generations,” “Stranger to the Rain,” “The Hardest Part of Love,” “Ain’t it Good?,” and poignant finale “In the Beginning.”

“The whole premise of the show for me, the main theme of the show, comes from the song ‘The Hardest Part of Love,’” said director Richard Lee Waldeck. “(The lyric says), the hardest part of love is letting go. Being able to love yet being able to let go is so important. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone is inquisitive, everyone wants to know and learn. It’s OK to go in different directions in life. Our decisions are our own.”

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“‘Children of Eden’ is a beautiful show with a message for everyone,” added Jillian Mitchell, who portrays Eve and whose previous credits include “Once Upon a Mattress,” “The Library” and “Stained Glass.” “This production teaches lessons of love and self-discovery for all walks of life. Playing the role of Eve has allowed me to rediscover my childhood self as well as gain a better understanding for the struggles of parenthood. This show teaches what it means to be a strong parent and emphasizes the idea that every decision we make in our lives has a reaction.”

The multigenerational cast includes principals Jason Lakes as Father, Sam Downs as Adam, Nicholas Brown as Cain/Ham, Tanner Brown as Abel/Japheth, Jeff Weinkam as Noah, Anna Rae Brown as Mama Noah, Maddy Weinkam as Yonah, Michael Plaugher as Snake, Maria Greely as Young Cain, and Ben Brown as Young Abel.

Storytellers include Alisha McFarlane, Tamar Fishbein, Bethany Scearce, Melanie Brown, Lily Brackney Brown, Dani Jones, Ilana Milberg, Terry Neack, Michaela Back, Rey Howe, Nora Scarboro, Dan Schindler, Matthew Clifton, and Jamie Pavlofsky. Nelson Riley and Lily Risner Bang are featured dancers.

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Waldeck’s artistic team includes musical director Sarah Plaugher, the aforementioned Weinkam as choreographer, production stage manager Josh Gibson, assistant stage manager Abby Kinnebrew Smith and costumer Poleena Greely.

Established in part to provide more diverse opportunities for actors in Dayton and Cincinnati, INNOVAtheatre is pleased to be housed at the Sorg, which was built in 1891. Having offered space to various local music acts as well as troupes such as Xenia Area Community Theater, the venue aims to provide “programming and services that make an essential contribution to the cultural economy, economic revitalization, education, and quality of life of Middletown and its region.” The Sorg Opera Revitalization Group (SORG) notably oversees the venue.

“The Sorg has been known as a concert venue more so than a performing arts venue and we’re trying to bring that (performing arts element) back,” Waldeck said. “And (being in) Middletown allows us to combine our actors from Dayton and Cincinnati. It’s not too far of a location for our actors to drive in order for them to do the shows they love. We’re here to do good theater and do it well.”

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“Sorg Opera House is an amazing (venue) that really adds to the quality of entertainment in the Miami Valley,” said Stephen Ream, SORG board member. “We are a non-profit, all-volunteer organization. We also have several exclusive play premieres coming out in the next two years that are exclusive to just our theater.”

In addition to promising a sense of spectacle, particularly in terms of lighting design, Waldeck hopes audiences are eager for an experience in which the importance of family and connection is paramount.

“This story is relevant to today,” he said. “Family is integral to everything whether personal blood relatives or friends.”

Contact this contributing writer at rflorence2@gmail.com.

How to go:

What: “Children of Eden”

Where: Sorg Opera House, 63 S. Main St., Middletown

When: July 9-18; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays

Cost: Reserved tickets $25 in advance

Tickets or more information: Visit innovatheatre.com or sorgoperahouse.org

FYI: Masks are not required but are optional. The theater is open at full capacity.

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