The Players Club of Swarthmore’s current production, CHILDREN OF EDEN, offers a fun twist on two well-known biblical tales. The musical tackles the story of Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, and the Garden of Eden in Act I, and the story of Noah and the great flood in Act II. The musical offers a fresh perspective on these stories by framing them in terms of the relationship between parents and children. God, known only as “Father,” creates Adam and Eve as children for himself. He gives them a paradise and allows them to run free in it, with only one rule: They must never eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. When they disobey him, as children inevitably do, Father casts them out from the Garden of Eden. From then on, Adam and Eve and their offspring—generations that continue all the way to the time of Noah—must figure out how to navigate the world and raise their own children without the firm, parental hand of Father steering them. The themes of childhood rebellion and parental concern that pervade both acts of the musical resonate strongly with audiences.
Director Robert Welch has assembled a large cast of 43 “storytellers” of all ages (including two infants!). All the featured actors were excellent, but several performers really stood out. Erick J. Bayne tackles the demanding role of Father—the only character to appear in both acts—with grace and aplomb. His towering stature and strong baritone voice make him a compelling presence onstage, and he is able to deftly switch between Father’s proud-papa moments and times of anger. Bridget O’Donnell shines as Eve. Her big solo, “Spark of Creation,” draws the audience in and gives us a look at the real questioning and wonder that led to her decision to eat the forbidden fruit. Paul Recupero has a strong voice and portrays Adam’s conflict extremely well when he must choose between staying in the garden with Father or leaving with Eve. In the second act, standout performers include Emily Miller Hudell, who plays Yonah, a descendent of Cain who is not allowed on the ark but sneaks onboard because she is in love with Noah’s son, Japheth. And Andrea Kalan, as Mama Noah, brings down the house twice with her energetic gospel-themed number, “Ain’t It Good,” which is reprised after curtain call and really gets the audience on their feet. Several chorus soloists stand out as well, in particular Randino Del Rosario and Sherrilyn Carr, who open Act II with the rousing chorus number “Generations.” The six actors who portrayed the snake who tempts Eve were also impressive, singing and dancing while manipulating a giant snake puppet (designed by Kate Wright).
The large chorus was well-used in many scenes, sometimes acting as storytellers and other times filling in as trees or animals. A highlight is in Act II, when the animals begin boarding the ark two-by-two. It’s played for laughs and is a great showcase for the production’s delightful costumes. (Make sure you watch the penguins.) Under the music direction of Tom Mucchetti, the singers make great use of the score’s lush vocals. Donna Dougherty’s choreography is excellent and adds depth to many of the big chorus numbers.
CHILDREN OF EDEN is appropriate for all ages and would be a wonderful show for families to watch together.
CHILDREN OF EDEN
Book by John Caird
Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Directed by Robert Welch
April 20-May 12, 2012
The Players Club of Swarthmore
614 Fairview Avenue