CENTERVILLE — It is astounding to me how immense the world of theatre seems to be—with so much to offer and an abundance of new material constantly being created. Yet so many theatre companies focus on the same old shows, the beloved classics. I love a classic show every now and then—and really, I can never get too much of a well-done The Music Man or My Fair Lady—but it is always refreshing when a theatre company decides to sidestep the norm and produce a lesser-known show.
Such was the case with Centerpoint Legacy Theatre’s choice to present Stephen Schwartz’s Children of Eden, a musical which, despite its Biblical references, is more about relationships and family than it is about religion or God. I was happy to finally see Children of Eden, a show not often performed in Utah. In the end, I found it to be a thoughtful piece of theatre.
Children of Eden (book by John Caird, based on a concept by Charles Lisanby) is an enchanting weaving of two familiar—and familial—Biblical tales, with the first act focusing on Adam and Eve’s family and the second act on Noah’s family. The constant binding the two stories together is “Father,” a character (played regally by Daniel Frederickson) who is more human in his thoughts and reactions than like the traditionally portrayed Deity. As Stephen Schwartz explained (as found in the CPT program), “He is called Father in the cast of characters, not God, because it is his feelings and behavior as a Father that we are talking about in this particular piece.” Viewing the production with such an understanding allows for the character of Father to speak more directly to the audience’s own lives, as so often regular people’s lives revolve upon the hopes, realities, victories, and even disappointments in family relationships.
Thanks to the steady vision of director Alane Schultz, the entire production benefited from a unity among the artistic elements. Soft, beautiful, and simple describe everything starting with designer Eric Oliphant’s set—a blank canvas of sorts with just a few steps leading to a platform, with small hanging murals giving any extra “locations” such as Eden. Sandy Hunsaker’s costumes complemented the set, as the cast were dressed in flowing, loose fabrics and muted earth tones and pastels (adding a little more spice and a bit of tribal quality in the second act). Only Father’s costume purposefully stood out—a white and gold rigidly constructed suit reminiscent of what a traditional clergyman or royal would wear formally.
The performances in the show were as a whole successful. My favorite group numbers included “Children of Eden,” which was powerfully led by Megan Cash as Eve. This song showcased the overall vocal talent of the cast, and the a cappella segment was evidence of a job well done by music director Julie Waite. Another favorite of mine was the energetic, “Generations,” which showcased Kristi Shaw’s mixed and creative choreography. The ever-adorable parade of animals (many of whom were played by children) during “The Return of the Animals” was absolutely delightful.
Though there wasn’t a weak link in the cast, standout performances included Daniel Frederickson, whose Father was commanding, resolute, yet also relatable in his moments of tenderness and grief. Also notable was Megan Cash as Eve/Mama Noah and Ricky Parkinson as Adam/Noah. Both actors excelled at creating two separate and distinct characters, with Cash’s spirited Eve contrasting her mature and passionate Mama Noah, and Parkinson’s level Adam playing against his vivacious Noah. My favorite singer of the night was Brittany Bowen Anderson, who excelled as the humble, yet strong Yonah. Anderson’s rendition of “Stranger to the Rain” was gorgeous and moving, and her duet of “In Whatever Time We Have” with Jason Baldwin (as Japeth) was melodic and touching.
CenterPoint’s Children of Eden is a not-to-miss production. Not only is this show rare in Utah, but this particular staging blew me away. From the first glimpse of creation to the trials on Noah’s ark, Children of Eden captivated, entertained, and enlightened me. I connected with the characters in a profound way and feel better for having opened my heart to this artistic and beautiful piece. May we all embrace the “spark of creation” within us and remember that, though imperfect, the core of our humanity lies in family.