Children of Eden
|Children of Eden|
1998 New Jersey Cast Recording
|Basis||Genesis and a concept by |
|Productions||1991 West End |
1997 Paper Mill Playhouse
2016 Off-West End
Children of Eden is a two-act musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by John Caird. The musical is based on the Book of Genesis, with Act I telling the story of Adam and Eve, Cain, and Abel, while Act II deals with Noah and the Flood. Though commercially the musical has had very little success, it is popular in community and regional theatres worldwide, due to its ability to accommodate a large or small cast, religious subject, and its universal themes of family and love. The show's publisher, Music Theater International, reports that Children of Eden is one of its top 20 most frequently licensed properties.
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 Japheth, 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.
The rarest recording of the show is concept recording released after changes were made following the 1991 London production. The tracks feature 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 album was made available only for a limited time on Stephen Schwartz's website via RealAudio streaming. This recording is considered to be the rarest version of the show that exists. There are only a handful of copies of this recording in existence.
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 for The York Theatre Company. The concert featured Julia Murney, Norm Lewis, Darius de Haas, and Jai Rodriguez and raised funds for The National AIDS Fund.
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.
In 2015, the show was adapted into a junior version by Lindsay Maron. The World Premiere of this adaptation was presented at the Summit Playhouse in Summit, NJ from July 24-August 2 (with preview performances July 17–19). The production was directed and choreographed by Maron with musical direction and musical arrangements by Alex Ratner. The cast included 37 performers from all over the tristate area. Stephen Schwartz and executives from MTI attended the production and the show is moving forward on track to be licensed in the near future. The production and the adaptation process were featured on Playbill.com. 
In 2016, Children of Eden marked its 30th anniversary. In celebration of this achievement, Youth Sing Praise, the same religious-oriented high school theatre camp that premiered it in 1986, performed the show at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois on June 25, 2016, to a crowd of over 1,000 people.
Synopsis (American version)
The musical opens with the creation story from the Book of Genesis ("Let There Be") and the Storytellers, who narrate the piece, help Father (the God-character, who is always addressed as "Father") bring the universe and life into existence, including Father's new children, Adam and Eve. Eve finds herself drawn to the tree of knowledge, though Father makes it clear to her that she must stay away from "that tree," with no clear explanation ("The Tree of Knowledge"). Father then attempts to distract Adam and Eve by playing a game where they name all the animals in the garden ("The Naming"). With his children distracted for the time being, everything is right with the newly created world and Adam and Eve fall in love with one another ("Grateful Children", "Father's Day", and "Perfect"). Eve, however, still hungers for something more; to wants see what lies beyond the garden ("The Spark of Creation"). She meets a snake that tempts her with the fruit from the forbidden tree and the possibilities that open up for her if she eats it. ("In Pursuit of Excellence"). Eve eats the fruit and is awakened to the possibility and the world that lies beyond. ("The End of a Perfect Day" and "Childhood's End"). Eve attempts to trick Adam into eating the apple in several apple-related dishes, though she stops him before he consumes any of them. Eve tells Adam that she ate of the Tree of Knowledge and, as Father calls from the distance, the two hide in the garden.
Father finds his children and, after discovering Eve has eaten the apple, tells her that she must leave the garden as she is no longer innocent. And, in a twist from the Genesis tale, Adam is then torn between these two choices: he can either stay with Father in Eden, or he can eat the fruit and be banished with Eve. Adam decides that, even though it means leaving the garden that he loves with all his heart forever, he must be with Eve ("A World Without You"). Adam and Eve are driven out of the garden by Father into the wasteland surrounding the garden and have two children, Cain and Abel ("The Expulsion" and "The Wasteland").
Several years later, Adam and Eve, along with their children, continue with their lives, hoping and praying that Father will one day return and bring them home to Eden. 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, like his mother, longs to see the world, but out of fear for their children's safety, Adam and Eve have set their glen as the boundary, with no chance of their children going beyond the waterfall. Cain, upset that his parents have trapped them and that they let themselves get kicked out of Eden, complains to Abel about the problems that their parents created for them and his desire to see what lies beyond ("Lost in the Wilderness"). He begs Abel to leave to find the glen with him, as Father appears. Both boys, having never seen Father, are shocked and assume that he has arrived to take them back to the garden. Father shows his love and affection and promises the brothers their very own wives. However, it quickly becomes clear that Father has no intention of seeing their parents or taking any of them back to Eden. Cain, embittered, packs his things, tells Father and Abel that he is going to go find his future out in the wasteland, and leaves the glen ("Lost in the Wilderness (Reprise)"). Father tells Abel to keep his visit secret from his parents, but that he will return to them.
Adam and Eve, deeply worried about Cain's safety out in the Wasteland, find some comfort in the fact that they have been able to create a life and family for themselves outside of Eden ("Close to Home"), but this peacefulness is once again shattered when Cain, back from his journey, tells the family that he has found a ring of giant stones, seemingly providing evidence of other humans. Cain takes the family to see the stones in the wasteland, with Eve and Abel just as excited as Cain. Adam, however, admits to his family that he had seen the ring of stones and those who live there years before, but never told them as he was afraid of the potential consequences ("A Ring of Stones" and "Clash of the Generations"). Adam's betrayal quickly leads to a family-wide fight, culminating in Cain threatening to leave forever and taking Abel with him. Abel, fighting through his heartbreak, decides to stay with his parents. Cain, beginning to leave, is forcibly stopped by Adam, who slaps Cain, which sends him to the ground. Cain tells Adam that he will kill him and the two attempt to fight, but when Abel intervenes, he is thrown off Cain, who, in his rage, beats him to death with a stone ("The Death of Abel"). Cain leaves the remaining members of his family, telling Adam that it should have been him that should be dead. Father, in his anger, decrees that Cain's descendants will always bear a mark for the sin of their ancestor ("The Mark of Cain").
Many years after Abel's death and Cain's departure, Eve lives with her children and grandchildren and prepares herself for death. She attempts to speak to Father about Cain's departure from the family, Adam's grief over the loss of both his sons, the birth of another son, Seth, who has since had children of his own, and Adam's recent death. She prays that her children and her grandchildren will regain the garden that was lost, as Father allows her into heaven ("Children of Eden").
The storytellers reconvene and continue their story, following the lineage of both Seth and Cain, eventually tracing all the way down to Noah and his family, whose story comprises the second act’s plot ("Generations").
Father, after centuries of facing the race of Cain, tells Noah that a storm is coming to wipe them all away, save Noah's family, as they remain the few who are untainted by Cain's lineage. Noah begs Father to reconsider, but Father leaves him with the command to build an ark for both his family and two of every animal ("The Gathering Storm").
Noah has three sons, and the eldest two, 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, due to her being a part of the race of Cain. All the animals, played by the Storytellers, come to the ark so that they can board and be saved from the flood ("The Return of the Animals" and "Noah's Lullaby"). Later, Noah finds Yonah outside and explains to her that she cannot board the ark, though he wishes she could and he leaves to board. She understands her plight and continues to face her problems with an open heart and mind, as she always has ("Stranger to the Rain"). Japheth finds Yonah as she's leaving and attempts to convince her to sneak on to the ark with him. Japheth tells Yonah that he doesn't care about the repercussions of his actions, as long as he can be with her. The two vow to spend whatever time they have left with one another and board the ark ("In Whatever Time We Have"), just as Father unleashes his wrath on the earth and the race of Cain ("The Flood").
For forty days and forty nights, the rain continues, never ceasing, and tensions on the ark are high, with couples fighting and discussions on how to stay alive in these desperate conditions, including killing animals on the ark for food ("What is He Waiting For?"). Yonah, having stayed undiscovered, releases a dove to find dry land and save the residents of the ark ("Sailor of the Skies"). The family discovers Yonah, and Shem and Ham wish to throw her overboard, but Japheth intervenes. It escalates into a fight, directly mirroring the one between Adam and Cain generations ago, and it is only because Yonah intervenes that one of the brothers is not killed. Noah is unsure as to what he must do, sends the family away from him and attempts to talk to Father. His wife asks him if Father speaks to him anymore, and when Noah answers "No", she tells him, "You must be the father now;" that Noah has to live 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, but both come to terms with the fact that if you love something, you must let it go ("The Hardest Part of Love").
Noah calls the family together once more, all of them desperate for guidance and hope ("Words of Doom"). He decides to give Japheth and Yonah his blessing as the family gathers together to spend whatever time they have left as a happy, loving family ("The Hour of Darkness"). Then the dove Yonah released returns with an olive branch in its mouth, signifying nearby land, and the family again sees the light of the stars. The family rejoices as Mama leads the family in the gospel song ("Ain't It Good?"). Father gives humanity the power to control its fate and gives his blessing to find their future without his direct influence ("Precious Children"). As the family lands and leaves the ark, they separate, taking various animals to their new homes across the world. As they say their final goodbyes, 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". Additional Facts. Music Theatre International. Retrieved August 10, 2010.
- "FAQ: On the Right Track". Stephen Schwartz. Retrieved August 10, 2010.
- http://www.whatsonstage.com/london-theatre/news/children-of-eden-union-theatre_41298.html What's Onstage report. Accessed 14 August 2016
- "Children of Eden: The New Musical, original London production playbill". London: Prince Edward Theatre/Upstart & Atlantic Overtures. 1991.