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Published: Friday, 4/8/2005

Musicals presented at BGSU, Siena Heights

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
David Okerland, at rear, plays the Father, and Emily Wright, as
Eve, lays on top of Adam, played by Michael Quinchett.
David Okerland, at rear, plays the Father, and Emily Wright, as Eve, lays on top of Adam, played by Michael Quinchett.
FRASER / BLADE Enlarge

Two universities and two PG-rated musicals add up to some weekend fun.

Children of Eden opens tonight at Bowling Green State University, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is at Siena Heights University in Adrian.

Children of Eden, with book by John Caird (Les Miserables) and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Wicked) is based on the biblical book of Genesis. The first act tells the story of Adam and Eve, the second the story of Noah and the ark.

"I love the show; it really is wonderful," said Michael Ellison, an assistant professor of theater at BGSU. "Even though it has religious themes, the appeal is much wider, because it touches on issues of parenting, growing up, and letting go."

Schwartz's show opened in London in 1991. It never played on Broadway, but it has become a favorite of regional and community theaters.

Ellison said he has tinkered with it, especially the opening.

"It starts with a potlatch," he said, explaining that the term refers to a Native American tradition, a gathering of various tribes to share goods, affirm their commonality, and strengthen bonds.

A favorite part of the potlatch is the storytelling, and one of those stories is about the very beginning of mankind: Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

"David Okerlund, who teaches voice in the College of Musical Arts, plays Father, who is the God figure." He is one of the few characters to appear in both acts, and he has a wonderful voice, Ellison said.

The bulk of the 35 roles are played by university students and faculty members, but members of the community appear as well, especially the five children.

Two other key roles - Eve and Mama Noah - are played by Emily Wright, "the very first graduate in our musical theater specialization," Ellison said.

The characters played by Okerlund and Wright also represent Father Sky and Mother Earth, he said, which makes for an interesting dynamic, especially because two of the tribes at the potlatch are led by women and two by men.

Other cast members and their characters include Michael Quinichett as Adam; Layan Elwazani and Josh Hamilton as, respectively, young and mature Cain; Justin Brown and Levi Vladiff as young and mature Abel; Kevin Beebee as Noah; Brian Carlucci, Kurt Speltz, and Ryan Zarecki as Noah's sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth; Jade Cruz and Lindsey Denham as Noah's daughters-in-law Aysha and Aphra, and Kate Gibson as Yonah, the serving girl.

Ellison says he is delighted to have on board choreographer Anthony Horne, an assistant professor of theater. "Tony is a director and a choreographer in his own right, and he has a master's of business in the arts as well. We keep finding lots for him to do."

As for that PG rating, Ellison said that the scene depicting the murder of Abel is a little scary.

"Children of Eden" opens tonight and runs through April 17 in the Eva Marie Saint Theater in University Hall at Bowling Green State University. Show times are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children 11 and younger. Information: 419-372-2719.

In Adrian, there's "something familiar, something peculiar, something for everyone comedy tonight" as the song goes.

A portion of Siena Heights University is being transformed into ancient Rome for the Stephen Sondheim-Larry Gelbart musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Director Mark DiPietro, chairman of the university's division of visual and performing arts and education, says some of his cast will be familiar to fans of the Croswell Opera House's summer musical season, for they appeared in last year's Big River, which he also directed. (For the record, he's directing Carousel at the Croswell this summer.

"Mike Lane, who played Huck Finn, is Pseudolus, and he has great timing with the music and the songs."

Pseudolus is a slave in ancient Rome, a master con artist who plans to obtain his freedom from his young master, Hero, who yearns for the lovely but not-very-bright courtesan Philia. If Pseudolus can obtain Philia, he can swap her to Hero for that freedom.

It's easier said than done, for Hero's father, Senex, has his eye on the girl, as does the Roman centurion Miles Gloriosus. Hero's shrewish mother, Domina, has no intention of allowing either her old goat of a husband or her innocent son to get anywhere near the courtesan, and Pseudolus' friend, Hysterium, goes berserk anytime he thinks of incurring Domina's wrath.

In these key roles are Lane of Fenton, Mich.; Tim Ray of Adrian as Senex, Sarah Miller and Alex Miller of Clinton, Mich., as Domina and Miles Gloriosus, Garry Palmer and Joanne Eversden of Tecumseh, Mich., as Hero and Philia, and Andrew Carter of Adrian as Hysterium.

"Everyone in the cast is a student at Siena Heights, most of them theater majors," DiPietro said. "I'm really pleased with the way it's going. It's just a well put-together show."

DiPietro says his target audience is middle-schoolers and older. Along with the delicious wordplay of Sondheim's lyrics, the pratfalls, and the physical comedy is quite a bit of bawdy humor with courtesans in various stages of undress.

"Most of the people who bring their kids will already know the show," he said.

"It's really just a good time."

"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" is scheduled at 8 p.m. today and tomorrow in Francoeur Theatre of Siena Heights University's Verheydn Performing Arts Center, 1247 East Siena Heights Dr., Adrian. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors. Information: 517-264-7890.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at: ncherry@theblade.com or 419-724-6130.



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