Children of Eden
|Children of Eden|
1998 New Jersey Cast Recording
|Basis||Genesis and a concept by
|Productions||1991 Prince Edward Theatre
1997 Paper Mill Playhouse
Children of Eden is a two-act musical play with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by John Caird. The musical is based on the Book of Genesis. Act I tells the story of Adam and Eve, Cain, and Abel, and Act II deals with Noah and the Flood. Though it had a short run on London's West End in the Prince Edward Theatre and has never played Broadway, the show is popular in community theatres worldwide. While many productions of the show have used the same principals in both acts, with the actors each taking on a different character for the story of Noah, the original West End production did not utilize doubling of principals.
Children of Eden was originally written in 1986 as Family Tree for a production by Youth Sing Praise, a religious-oriented high school theatre camp performed at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois. Stephen Schwartz adapted the script and music of Family Tree into a full-length musical, giving it the title it uses today.
The original cast production of Children of Eden was developed as a Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) workshop, directed by John Caird, and starring Ken Page as Father, Richard Lloyd-King as Snake, Martin Smith as Adam, Shezwae Powell as Eve, Adrian Beaumont as Cain, Kevin Colson as Noah, Earlene Bentley as Mama Noah, Frances Ruffelle as Yonah, Anthony Barclay as Japeth, Craig Pinder as Shem, Ray Shell as Ham, Hiromi Itoh as Aysha and Ruthie Henshall as Aphra. After the RSC's budget was cut, it opened at the Prince Edward Theatre in London's West End on January 8, 1991. The show closed on April 6, 1991 to poor reviews and after the Persian Gulf War put a damper on tourism worldwide.
The show's poor reviews and quick closing meant that any hope of a Broadway transfer was abandoned. The original London cast album was released on LP and CD, but quickly went out of print. The CD release was marred by manufacturing defects that caused most of the discs to "bronze", becoming unplayable. Consequently, a playable copy of the disc is highly prized by musical theatre collectors. Schwartz believes the show has not played on Broadway because of the expense required to produce it in an Actor's Equity house, due to the cast of characters.
There is an extremely rare concept recording of the show that exists. The recording features Stephen Schwartz himself playing the piano. The recording was made before the Papermill Playhouse production in an effort to review the rewrites and revisions. The recording was made available only for a limited time on Stephen Schwartz's website via RealAudio streaming. The recording is considered to be the rarest version of the show that exists. Only a handful of people possess CD or digital copies of it, including Stephen Schwartz himself and Michael Kohl.
Throughout the 1990s, the show received numerous productions at both the amateur and professional levels; it was also reworked and edited, with songs and scenes being added and cut. In 1997, a major production was mounted at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey, featuring Stephanie Mills. A cast recording of this production was produced by Schwartz himself. This revised version, commonly known as the "American version" or "Paper Mill version", is substantially what is currently licensed for production in the United States. The New York City premiere of the piece was as the inaugural World AIDS Day Concert presented by Jamie McGonnigal and Kate Shindle. The concert featured Julia Murney, Norm Lewis, Darius de Haas, and Jai Rodriguez and raised funds for The National AIDS Fund. The show's publisher, Music Theater International, reports that Children of Eden is one of its top 20 most frequently licensed properties, which is very unusual for a show that has never had a Broadway or Off-Broadway run. Its popularity is partly due to its ability to accommodate a large or small cast; its universal themes of family, love, greed, anger, and others; and its religious material, which make it a favorite for churches, synagogues, and post-secondary schools. The most recent production of Children of Eden was played at NIDA (St. Andrews), Sydney, Australia, on the second and third weekends of March, 2011. A world premiere of the symphonic version ran in Kansas City from July 15 to 24, 2011, accompanied by a 55-piece orchestra.
A Gala charity concert adaptation ran for one night only at the Prince of Wales theatre in London on 29 January 2012. The concert was produced to support Crohn's and Colitis UK and featured performers from London's West End theatre community and from UK television.
In 2013 Children of Eden was presented in Melbourne, Australia by award-winning production company Magnormos, as the finale of their Stephen Schwartz Celebration Triptych. The triptych also featured Godspell and Pippin and enjoyed the company of composer Stephen Schwartz in attendance.
A one-night only concert was presented at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC on May 19, 2014. The concert featured Ron Bohmer, Ashley Brown, Charl Brown, Rebecca Naomi Jones, and Jeremy Jordan. The production was accompanied by the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra and the National Broadway Chorus, and was attended by composer Stephen Schwartz.
Synopsis (American version)
- Act I
The play opens with the creation story from the Book of Genesis ("Let There Be"). Eve is drawn to the tree of knowledge, even though Father (the God-character is always addressed as "Father" by the other characters) has warned her to stay away ("The Tree of Knowledge"). Father attempts to distract Adam and Eve by playing a game where Adam and Eve name all the animals ("The Naming"). With his children distracted for the time being, everything is right with the newly created world ("Grateful Children," "Father's Day," and "Perfect"). Eve, however, still hungers for something more than what she has ("The Spark of Creation"). She meets a snake that tempts her with the fruit from the forbidden tree ("In Pursuit of Excellence"). Eve eats the fruit, meaning that she must be banished from the Garden of Eden ("The End of a Perfect Day" and "Childhood's End").
In a twist from the Genesis tale, Adam is portrayed as torn between two choices: either he can stay with Father in Eden, or he can eat the fruit and be banished with Eve. He chooses to stay with Eve, even though it means leaving the garden forever ("A World Without You"). Adam and Eve are driven out into the surrounding wilderness and have two children, Cain and Abel ("The Expulsion" and "The Wasteland"). Eve realizes that the same fire that led to her eating the fruit is present in her son, Cain ("The Spark of Creation (Reprise 1)"). Cain tells Abel of the problems that Adam and Eve made for them by leaving the garden and says that he intends to find the lost garden ("Lost in the Wilderness").
Adam and Eve find some pleasure in the fact that they have been able to create a life for themselves outside of Eden ("Close to Home"), but this peacefulness is again shattered when Cain says that he has found a ring of stones, seeming proof that they are not the only humans alive; Adam admits that he had seen the ring of stones and those who live there before but that he had never mentioned it because he was afraid of the potential consequences ("A Ring of Stones" and "Clash of the Generations"). This leads to a fight between Adam and Cain, but when Abel intervenes, he is killed, as Cain attempts to kill Adam but hits Abel instead ("The Death of Abel"). Father decrees that Cain's descendants will always bear a mark for the sin of their ancestor ("The Mark of Cain").
Act I closes with Eve about to die. She delivers a monologue about Cain's departure from the family and the birth of another son, Seth, who has since had children of his own. She then prays that her children and her grandchildren will regain the garden that was lost ("Children of Eden").
- Act II
The act opens with "Generations," a list of the many descendants of Cain and Seth, all the way down to Noah and his family, whose story comprises the second act’s plot. Father tells Noah that a storm is coming, so Noah must build a boat ("The Gathering Storm").
Noah has three sons, and two of them, (Shem and Ham), have wives, but his youngest son, Japheth, is unhappy with the wives Noah has tried to obtain for him. Instead, he wishes to marry the servant-girl, Yonah, a descendant of the race of Cain, and Japheth tells this to his surprised family ("A Piece of Eight"); however, Noah will not allow Yonah on the ark. All the animals return so that they can board the ark ("The Return of the Animals" and "Noah's Lullaby"). Japheth comes to say goodbye to Yonah. She sings "Stranger to the Rain," in which she says that she has always faced the problem of being shunned because she bears the mark of Cain. Japheth decides to sneak Yonah onto the ark. Japheth and Yonah sing "In Whatever Time We Have," which tells of their love for each other.
The rain comes, and it keeps raining and raining ("The Flood" and "What is He Waiting For?"). Yonah releases a dove to find dry land ("Sailor of the Skies"). The rest of the family discovers Yonah, and Shem and Ham wish to throw her overboard, but Japheth intervenes. It escalates into a fight, and it is only because Yonah intervenes that one of the brothers is not killed. Noah is unsure as to what he must do. His wife asks him if Father speaks to him anymore, and when Noah answers "No," she tells him, "You must be the father now." Noah has to decide what should be done without God telling him what to do ("The Spark of Creation (Reprise 2)"). Noah sings of the difficulties that he has faced in being a father, while at the same time Father sings of the problems he has faced in being a father ("The Hardest Part of Love"). Noah calls the family together ("Words of Doom"). He decides to give Japheth and Yonah his blessing ("The Hour of Darkness"). Then the dove returns and the family again sees the light of the stars. Mama leads the family in the gospel song ("Ain't It Good?"). Father gives humanity the power to control its fate ("Precious Children"). The family sings of the problems they will face and their desire to return someday to the Garden of Eden ("In the Beginning").
Original London Production
Chorus (both acts)
1991 Prince Edward Theatre Production
Track Listing for the Paper Mill Playhouse Cast Recording (1998)
- Children of Eden: The New Musical, original London production playbill. London: Prince Edward Theatre/Upstart & Atlantic Overtures. 1991.
- "FAQ: On the Right Track". Stephen Schwartz. Retrieved August 10, 2010.
- "Children of Eden". Additional Facts. Music Theatre International. Retrieved August 10, 2010.