An unexpected encore
When Ethan Cavacas was performing in Wareham High School’s theater productions a few years ago, he never suspected he would end up on Broadway.
Though the Salve Regina University theater students still believe it to be a cruel joke, the 22 students, including Cavacas, who were a part of the university’s spring production of Stephen Swartz’s “Children of Eden” will be a part of the show's debut on Broadway.
The show, staged by Manhattan Concert Productions, will open Sunday, Feb. 18 at the Lincoln Center for one night only. Tickets go on sale Tuesday, Dec. 19.
Due to the vocally demanding nature of the musical, the students will only perform in the Act I ensemble, which will have approximately 350 people, according to Tara Watkins, Salve Regina’s theater program director.
The main cast will be comprised of notable actors, including Auli'i Cravalho, Nikki Renee Daniels, Jordan Fisher and Norma Lewis.
Watkins said although this is Swartz’s favorite show he’s written, it has never been performed on Broadway before.
She said the production company used to hold annual shows, but stopped during the Covid pandemic. This will be the company’s first show back.
She said Manhattan Concert Production was searching for actors who were recently in performances of “Children of Eden” and reached out to her encouraging the program to submit an ensemble audition tape.
Approximately 24 hours after the tape was submitted, the students were cast.
“I’m still pinching myself,” Watkins said. “I think, as most theater people would tell you, it’s a dream come true.”
Cavacas said, “It kind of feels insane.”
He added, “It’s something I’ve really never thought I would do because I’m not a theater major — and even then, I would never have expected this.”
Cavacas is a sophomore at Salve Regina double majoring in creative writing and psychology. He is a part of the school’s Applied Behavioral Analysis Program and also has a minor in criminal justice.
He said he initially started out working for the theater department chair when he was encouraged to audition for the spring musical.
Though he auditioned for an ensemble role, he was called back for a lead role as Abel.
Watkins said when Cavacas auditioned, everyone agreed he was the embodiment of Abel.
“He just has this sweet nature about him that is wanting to be kind to others and support those around him and almost has an innocence just as an air about him,” she said.
She added Ethan was able to gain a level of empathy and care from the audience that allowed the murder of Abel to truly feel like a tragedy.
Reflecting on the show last spring, Cavacas said, “It was very stressful, with a lot of long hours, but it was definitely very rewarding.”
He added he drank nothing but black tea with honey a month leading up to the show to ensure his voice was ready. A tradition he may have to bring back for Broadway.
Cavacas said he is not particularly religious, but “felt a lot of parallels with the character.”
He added playing the character helped him learn more about himself, which is one of the reasons why he does theater.
He said his work in the theater helps him in his majors as he is able to develop more complex characters in his creative writing and understand himself and others more in terms of psychology.
Watkins said although she was offered the chance to perform on Broadway with her students, she could not pass up the opportunity to be in the room with the producers, choreographers and directors.
She added, “I can’t wait, personally, to learn from people who are doing what I do, but at the highest level, and I can’t wait for the students to feel that way and experience that with the performers as well.”