CHILDREN OF EDEN
Music & lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Book by John Caird
The Union Theatre to 10 September
Old Union Arches, 229 Union Street, London SE1 0LR to 10 September 2016.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 20 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7261 9876
www.uniontheatre.biz (booking fees apply)
A musical about fathers and sons – and God: it feels a bit tired
Originally written by Stephen Schwartz for community theatres in the United States the Royal Shakespeare Company and John Caird took this biblical musical up in 1991, gave it a makeover, and it had a brief run in the West End. Because it flopped it never made it to Broadway then, and although it has had numerous community theatre stagings ever since in America and elsewhere, that remains the case.
The Union has a good track record in staging old musicals and this revival is of some interest. After all 25 years on, it might turn out to have been before its time. Sadly the show proves tedious and mawkish, a long predictable lecture about the difficulty of getting on with one’s Father. The father in question is, of course, God.
Christian Durham’s direction is fine, the hippy Hair style choreography by Lucie Pankhurst is inventive and there are some nice stage effects by designer Kingsley Hall using simple props.
The cast is young an enthusiastic, but some of them really need to be told to stop emoting all the time. Pulling faces is not acting and Mr Durham really should have put a stop to the merry smiles and twinkling grimacing.
Caird’s book covers the events in the Garden of Eden in Act One and then in Act Two goes on to God’s other big problem with mankind and the children of Cain when he sent the flood which drowned the sinners and put Noah and his family in the Ark with the animals.
The show works in Sunday school terms, but as a piece of gripping theatre it does not grip. That leaves Schwartz’s pretty predictable score, which only rises to the occasion right at the end with a belter of a gospel number, Ain’t It Good, sung splendidly by Natasha O’Brien as Mama Noah.
Stephen Barry makes a decent sonorous Adam and Noah; Guy Woolf is impressive as both Cain and Japheth, Noah’s youngest son who chooses an unsuitable bride; Joey Dexter does as much as anyone can do with the dull role of God, otherwise Father; and Nikita Johal delivers her big number as that unsuitable bride with passion.
The band is good, but situating it under the staircase at the side of the auditorium means it operates in a kind of echo chamber and is sometimes too loud for the voices of the cast to ride the music. Something to be thought about there.
Storyteller/Dance Captain: Verity Burgess.
Storyteller/Snake: Gabriel Mokake.
Father: Joey Dexter.
Adam.Noah: Stephen Barry.
Eve/Mama Noah: Natasha O’Brien.
Cain/Japheth: Guy Woolf.
Abel/Ham: Daniel Miles.
Seth/Shem: Kris Marc Joseph.
Aysha: Samantha Giffard.
Aphra: Susie Chaytow.
Yonak: Nikita Johal.
Director: Christian Durham.
Choreographer: Lucie Pankhurst.
Musical Director: Inga Davis Rutter.
Designer: Kingsley Hall.
Lighting Designer: Nic Farman.