Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

March 6, 2014

Musical Genesis

South Church's 'Children of Eden' a true family affair

By Brian Carmichael
Special to The Townsman

---- — Ted Harris never had to ground his son, Andrew, when he was growing up.

This weekend, however, Harris will bring the wrath of God down upon the now 23-year-old and his girlfriend, Ally Mazzarella.

“Hey,” Harris said with a shrug and a smile, “she ate the apple.”

Playing Adam and Eve, Andrew Harris and Mazzarella will be banished from the Garden during the first act of South Church’s production of “Children of Eden.” Dad Ted Harris is cast as God.

The South Church Players perform their annual musical Friday through Sunday at the 41 Central St. church. Ticket sales for the benefit production support Neighbors In Need.

“Children of Eden” tells the story of the Book of Genesis, with Act I covering the stories of Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel, and Act 2 focusing on Noah and the Flood. The lyrics and music are by Stephen Schwartz, best known for the Tony-Award winning musical, “Wicked.”

The production marks Ted Harris’ 20th anniversary of his first appearance in South Church’s annual musicals. He played Jesus in “Godspell” in 1994 and has since appeared in 18 consecutive shows. (No musical was performed the year the church was being renovated.)

“I started because I enjoy acting and thought it would be fun,” Harris said. “Now it’s a rite of spring. I love it, especially because I’ve had the opportunity to be on stage so many times with each of my children. This year it will be Andrew, Ally and Emma.”

Harris attributed how the South Church Players operate to what keeps the show fresh for him and others.

“I keep joking that I should retire, but, with or without my kids, it’s an amazing experience year after year,” he said.

Linda Zimmerman, who along with Deb White, has directed the plays for the past 20 years, said the annual musicals are about building community within the church, while also serving as a gift to the larger community, with the proceeds always given to charity.

“We are not community theater; we are a theater community,” Zimmerman said. “No matter how many people try out and no matter what their musical or acting ability, everyone is given a part. We welcome everyone into this community.”

While the lead actors change every year, the quality of the show never drops, she added.

“It’s amazing to watch the talent grow and blossom, especially among our youth,” she said. “Every year, we see a new swan take the stage. We believe that knowing the lead roles will be open every year encourages people to take chances they might otherwise not dare take.”

The risk-takers are not only among the youth, Zimmerman said.

Curt Cronin, whose daughters and wife have had roles in the plays for the past several years, will assume the part of Noah this year, with his wife, Brenda, cast as his stage wife.

Until daughters Missy, Rachel and Lily dragged him into a part in “Fiddler on the Roof” on a bet two years ago, Cronin said he had never taken part in any play or musical.

“Now I’ll be singing, and even fighting, and getting the animals on the ark as Noah. I never saw this one coming,” he said with a laugh. “We have been rehearsing for months and I can’t wait to get on stage.”

If You Go

What: “Children of Eden,” presented by South Church Players

When: Friday, March 7, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 8, 5:30 p.m.; Sunday, March 9, 2 p.m.

Where: South Church, 41 Central St., Andover

How: Tickets $10 in advance, $12 at the door, with family maximum of $40 in advance, $48 during the run. Proceeds benefit Neighbors in Need. Call 978-475-0321.