As little boys Rogan Jackson and Joshua Sanchez sat in the audience dreaming that one day they’d be on stage themselves. Proving that sometimes those dreams come true quicker than you could ever hope, last month they found themselves part of a 150 strong ensemble performing concert performances of Stephen Schwartz’s Children of Eden at the Cadillac Palace Theater, Chicago.
The show is a 1991 two-act musical based on the Book of Genesis. Although it never gave Schwartz the accolades he received from his more popular works (Godspell, Pippin and Wicked), it is still regularly produced in regional theaters across the country.
Schwartz attended rehearsals and even gave notes to Rogan, a student at Still Middle School, Naperville.
“He was super nice,” said Rogan, who played Young Abel. “Being picked to be in the show was a little intimidating at first but everyone was nice and supportive. After a day I felt really comfortable. I could see the audience a little bit during the performance. I could see their heads and could feel they were enjoying it. The sound of the applause was amazing.”
Both boys were required to sing solos, speak a few lines and dance, as well as appearing with the ensemble. The show starred former Destiny’s Child singer, Michelle Williams.
“I’ve wanted to be an actor for many years,” said 12-year-old Rogan. “I’ve been swimming since I was three but stopped last year because I wanted to focus more on my acting and I really feel it’s coming together. The Academy is great, I’ve had some absolutely amazing experiences. I feel so lucky.”
Joshua, 13, a student at Kennedy Junior High, Naperville said initially he was shocked because he hadn’t realized the two-performance production would be part of Broadway in Chicago. He not only played the part of Young Seth but was also a standby for Young Cain and Young Abel.
“I was a little nervous but we rehearsed a lot, so I felt prepared,” Joshua said. “During rehearsals we could see into the auditorium and it was really amazing.
“I learned that I’d never been a swing before; I don’t normally have to practice different parts so this was different. It was a great learning experience. It was like a dream come true and I would definitely like to do this again. It was just amazing.”
Rogan’s mom Tracey said seeing her son become so passionate about musical theater has been a wonderful journey.
“We are so proud to see his efforts come to life on stage. But more important than any performance is that he has found a path he wants to pursue that makes him happy and fulfilled,” she said.
Christina Sanchez says the classes Joshua has taken with the Academy have helped build his confidence, along with giving him the right tools to succeed.
“I’m at a loss for words after seeing the stellar performance Joshua was in at the Cadillac Palace Theater,” she said. “Watching him do what he was born to do is truly remarkable. His passion is truly seen and felt when he is performing. You can see and feel his raw emotions in everything that he says or does.”