Children of Eden

Original London Cast, 1991 (London) 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) Because of its biblical subject matter and the sheer volume of music and lyrics that Stephen Schwartz wrote for the piece, including a large amount of choral music, Children of Eden might almost be thought of as an oratorio, except that it does have a fair amount of spoken dialogue. (The book is by John Caird.) Act I tells the story of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel in the Garden of Eden; Act II is about Noah and family before, during, and after the Ark. Both tales are given a postmodern psychological spin, showing how patterns of familial dysfunction are repeated down through the ages. Highlights of the score include the magnificent opening chorale, “Let There Be,” Eve’s “The Spark of Creation,” and the lovely title song. Children of Eden was originally developed as a workshop production of the Royal Shakespeare Company, directed by Caird and with a cast including Ken Page as Father (i.e., God), Martin Smith as Adam, Shezwae Powell as Eve, Adrian Beaumont as Cain, Francis Ruffelle as Yonah, and Ruthie Henshall as Aphra. As it turned out, the show opened in the West End at the Prince Edward Theatre in January 1991, receiving largely negative reviews and running only three months. For many years, this cast album was one of the rarest in the catalogue, partly because there were production problems with the CD edition, but fans of the score may now find it available in other formats. The performance is excellent overall, recorded in a rich and exciting acoustic, with top vocal honors going to Page, Powell, and Beaumont. — Michael Portantiere

Children-of-EdenAmerican Premiere Recording, 1998 (RCA, 2CDs) 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) This complete recording of an extensively revised version of Children of Eden is the cast album of a well-received production at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. The cast is headed by William Solo as Father, Adrian Zmed as Adam/Noah, Stephanie Mills as Eve/Mama Noah, Darius de Haas as Cain/Japheth, Hunter Foster as Abel/Ham, Vincent D’Elia as Seth/Shem, and Kelli Rabke as Yonah. Throughout the recording, Zmed displays a strong, ringing tenor voice that will come as a pleasant surprise to those who know him primarily as a TV actor (or even from his work in the notorious movie Grease 2, which was not exactly a great showcase for him). And it’s always a tremendous pleasure to hear Mills, best known for originating the role of Dorothy in The Wiz; one only wishes that she had more shows and cast albums to her credit. A major highlight of the recording is de Haas’s intense performance of a vastly improved and much more compelling version of Cain’s “Lost in the Wilderness,” so heavily reworked that, for all intents and purposes, it’s a new song. Rabke does a fine job with the moving “Stranger to the Rain” and duets persuasively with de Haas in another beautiful song, “In Whatever Time We Have.” To date, Children of Eden has not had a commercial staging on or off Broadway in New York City, but it was given a fine benefit concert performance at Riverside Church in 2003.  –– M.P.