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Astoria Performing Arts Center

Children Of Eden

astoria performing arts centerAstoria Performing Arts Center - Children Of Eden

May 4, 2010 / Astoria / Queens Buzz. I just returned from watching a dress rehearsal of Children Of Eden which is about to open at the Astoria Performing Arts Center [APAC] at the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Astoria. I’ll start by clarifying the relationship of APAC to the Good Shepherd Church, which is something I had previously pondered.

APAC Offices & Performance Space - Located In Good Shepherd Church

The Good Shepherd Church is the home to the United Methodist Church which owns and runs the church. The church apparently shares the space with the United Methodist Korean Church as well as rents performance space to the Astoria Performing Arts Center. To our knowledge, the church and APAC are not affiliated.

Children Of Eden

astoria performing arts center apacAstoria Peforming Arts Center

Continued APAC’s offices are located at Kaufman Studios, where they they write requests for grants and manage the business of APAC. They also have shared access to the Good Shepherd gymnasium, which they convert to their performance space. In this space they host auditions, perform dress rehearsals and ultimately give the performances. As you can see from this photo, the gym converts nicely into theater space.

History Of APAC aka Astoria Performing Arts Center

tom wojtunik director christine o'grady choreopgrapherI was met by APAC’s publicist, Katie Rosin, who provided me with all sorts of background information, including some of the above. APAC has been serving Astoria since 2001, when a young actress, Susan Scannell, decided that she would bring high quality theater and entertainment to Astoria / LIC. Over the years APAC evolved and its founder passed the organizational torch onto others. Taryn Drongowski became the Executive Director in 2005 and continues to oversee the operations of the company. And APAC’s Artistic Director, Tom Wojtunik, has managed APAC’s direction and vision since 2008. APAC gets its funding from grants, admissions and donations from individuals and organizations.

Children Of Eden - Musical Performance In Astoria Queens

children of eden astoria performing arts center 2010Children Of Eden is a book that was written by John Caird which Stephen Schwartz adapted into a play. It’s about the Book Of Genesis but the play in general and this production in particular, doesn’t appear to have any religious overtones, even though it is being performed in a church. The play focuses on the story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and the subsequent tale of Cain and Able, although the story has been transformed into a tale of family relationships and incorporated into a musical.

Children Of Eden - Preview / Review

lilli wosk musical director astoriaI arrived a couple of hours before the full dress rehearsal was to begin. I surveyed the landscape and met a number of the actors and actresses. I wandered upstairs to where the lighting and sound crew were finishing up their work, and then across the balcony to where a six piece live band was sequestered, lead by Lilli Wosk on the keyboard.

Choreographer Christine O’Grady was working through many of the final steps with various groups of actors and actresses while I was collecting information and taking photos. She would have them run through certain pieces at half speed several times until everyone was comfortable with their roles and then take them up to full speed. All of the vocals had been rehearsed before, under the direction of Lilly. And in the background the director, Tom, hosted brief interludes with cast members, production personnel, lighting and whoever else had sought to confer with him.

theater groups in astoria nyI shot photos as they rehearsed some of their sequences. Since they were out of costume and only singing bits and pieces I had not yet absorbed the full flavor of the production. Song was definitely in the air, but as mentioned, it had already been rehearsed. They broke for a half hour, and while some of them ate Chinese food, others donned their costumes. The stage manager began the countdown, 20 minutes to performance, fifteen minutes to performance, ten minutes to performance, five minutes to performance, one minute to performance … Tom arose to give us all a one minute list of guidelines / pep talk and the production began.

Children Of Eden At APAC May 2010

children of eden musical astoriaThe lights blackened, the music started and then the lights slowly came up as the first actor playing god the father appeared on the stage. He began singing. He was soon followed by angels, who were also singing. After creating a perfect world, he added his children, Adam and Eve. And, as the story goes, snakes and two children later.

The set was pretty amazing in its breadth and depth. It was like an English castle, with an open space which traversed the theater. Actors could appear from any of nine potential entrances providing a fluidity of motion difficult to achieve in standard theater spaces. The main stage was set in the center of the room, thus providing each audience member with a bit different perspective, but choreographer Christine O’Grady had conspired with set designer Michael P. Kramer, to ensure that nobody would be cheated of a plethora of good views. The costumes fit the play, providing a mix of aesthetics, from the jungle garb of Eve and Adam and their children, to the white flowing robes of the angels and god.

Play Vocals Moving / Musical Scores Enjoyable

musical score musicians astoria queensPerhaps the most enthralling aspect of the production was the music. The producer and directors had done well in selecting a cast with uniformly good voices. Those who had been selected to do solos, including God, Adam, Eve and Cain, were well suited to their chosen roles. The sound quality of this production was on a par with well performed Broadway musical and at times I actually found myself moved by emotional quality of the vocal performances.

Adam [Joseph Spieldenner] and Eve [Emmy Raver-Lampman] sang multiple solos while performing their roles with a range of modernity and garden of eden simplicity. Eve deftly managed the complexities and nuances of an innocent child, a determined and curious woman, and a seductive female. alan shaw vocals in astoriaAnd Cain brought to life the angst, anger and emotion of an ambitious and rebellious son.

The father [James Zannelli] played a convincing righteous 'god the father' and Adam played the quintessential neolithic confused husband, trying to stay abreast of and keep peace within the family, while managing relations with those who have power over him and the environment in which he and his family live. Lastly, Stephen Gelpi quietly played the story's victim: Able.

Generally the entire cast did a fine job of bringing the age old Genesis tale to life. The second act explored many of the same familial issues while telling the tale of Noah and his children, played by the same cast. So in the end what I experienced was marvelous music and convincing theater; performed on a creatively designed and aesthetic set, with simple but elegantly theater in astoria nydesigned costumes. All of which congealed to provide a first class performance of an age old story, made relevant to modern day audiences.

Children Of Eden Starts Today

Children Of Eden starts this Thursday at the Good Shepherd Church in Astoria. It will be showing at 8 pm Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, along with a Saturday matinee at 2 pm over the course of the next three weeks. See Queens Events calendar on this site for details. Tickets are on sale now at apacny.org. If you like musicals I can assure you that you’ll enjoy Children Of Eden, and possibly even if you don’t.

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