August 9, 10, and 11 at McDonald-Moody auditorium on Lubbock Christian University campus in Lubbock, Texas. Tickets are available here.)
Since several of my family members are involved in LCU’s production of Children of Eden, I attended the dress rehearsal with eager anticipation. I had not heard of the musical, Children of Eden, until it was announced as LCU’s Summer Musical. At first glance, this reimagining of the first few chapters of Genesis is a familiar story: A loving Father creates a perfect world, but his children disobey and must leave their home. The story continues through the first murder, and the salvation of Noah’s family through the flood.
However, in the hands of Stephen Schwartz (Godspell and Wicked) and John Caird (Jane Eyre and Candide) the familiar story becomes one that applies not only to the first families of the world, but to every family. The Father is not presented as an all-knowing, perfect creator, but as a new parent, struggling to understand his own role as well as the hearts and minds of his children. When Eve succumbs to the snake’s temptation, Adam is forced to choose between the woman he loves and the father that he loves. In the end, the Father must banish his beloved children to the wastelands. Adam and Eve warn Cain and Abel not to stray out of their valley, but adventurous Cain discovers a tribe of people that live beyond their borders and wants to join them. Suddenly, Adam finds himself in the same position as the Father. When Adam forbids Cain to leave, Abel is killed and Cain and his children are cursed by the Father.
In the second act, Noah has just completed the ark when one of his sons announces his engagement to their servant girl, a descendant of Cain. Noah and his family are being spared from the coming deluge because they are the only family that has not intermarried with Cain’s offspring. Noah, finding himself dealing with his own rebellious child, forbids their union, but his son sneaks her onto the boat. When the girl is discovered, Noah must chose to punish his disobedient children or let them make their own decisions and suffer the consequences of them. Unfortunately, the play ends before the audience can see the sacrifice the Father will make to ultimately redeem his children. However, Schwartz might argue that he covered that topic in Godspell.
Steven Schwartz’s score is challenging and uses a large number of musical styles, from the jazzy feel of the Snake’s “In Pursuit of Excellence” to the dissonance of the Father’s wrath in “The Flood” to the Gospel Swing of “Ain’t it Good”. LCU’s Children of Eden cast rises to the occasion.
The cast is made up of an assortment of LCU students, alumni, and friends from the community as well as a number of children who portray animals. The musical is being sponsored by the Broadway and Monterey Churches of Christ and some of the participants come from those congregations. “Storytellers” make up a large percentage of the cast as they interact with Father and the other characters to bring the story to life. David Jones brings a larger than life stage presence and a nuance gravitas to the role of “Father”. A number of LCU alumni returned to the McDonald Moody stage, including the following: Jake Lierman, who plays an alternately comedic and earnest Adam; DeLeisha Sheppard who portrays the creative, curious and strong-willed Eve with zest; and John Paul Sheppard, who is nearly perfect for the vocally-challenging roles of the rebellious Cain and the love-struck Japheth. Gary Moyers gives a heart-felt portrayal as the conflicted Noah as he and the Father sing “The Hardest Part of Love”. Traci Davidson shines as Noah's wife in “Ain’t it Good”.
LCU faculty member Shawn Hughes and Gary Moyers, owner of Moyers Design, collaborated on an innovative set design. A large screen backstage is alternately used to create silhouettes of the characters as well as to display video. The video sometimes displays the backdrop of the scenery, forming the scintillating tree of knowledge, the arid wasteland, Adam’s and Eve’s humble dwelling, or a ring of giant stones. During the creation song, “Let there be”, an artist’s hand can be seen drawing the planets, seas, and animals into being. When the cast opens the second act with “Generations”, a listing of Adam’s family tree, the names of the patriarchs can be seen on the screen. This use of technology pulls the audience into the world of the Father and his creations.
Children of Eden is a show that people of any age should enjoy. Parents might want to explain to their younger children that the story will be slightly different from what they learned in Bible class. The show begins at 7:30 Friday, Saturday and Sunday night in the McDonald-Moody Auditorium on LCU campus. (Tickets are available here.)