Children of Eden is a two-act musical play with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by John Caird. The musical is loosely based on the Book of Genesis. Act I tells the story of Adam and Eve, Cain, and Abel, and Act II deals with Noah and the Flood. While using the Bible as a plot source, it freely deviates in many details, and is a story of parents and children without a specifically religious point-of-view. Though it had a very short run on London's West End and has never played Broadway, the show is extremely popular in community theatres worldwide.
Children of Eden was originally written in 1986 as Family Tree for a production by Youth Sing Praise, a religious-oriented high school theatre camp at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois. Stephen Schwartz adapted the script and music of Family Tree into a full length musical, giving it the title it uses today.
The initial version of Children of Eden opened in London's West End on January 8, 1991. The show closed on April 6, 1991 after the Persian Gulf War put a damper on tourism worldwide. The show's quick closing meant that any hope of a Broadway transfer was nixed, at least for the time being.
However, the show still managed to become popular, and throughout the 1990s it received numerous productions at both the amateur and professional levels; the show was also reworked and edited, with songs and scenes being added and cut. In 1997, a major production was mounted at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey, featuring Stephanie Mills. A cast recording of this production was produced by Schwartz himself. This revised version, commonly known as the "American version" or "Paper Mill version", is substantially what is currently licensed for production in the United States. The show's publisher, Music Theater International, reports that Children of Eden is one of their top 20 most-frequently-licensed properties, which is very unusual for a show that has never had a Broadway or Off-Broadway run. Its popularity is partly due to its ability to accommodate a large or small cast; its universal themes of family, love, greed, anger, and many others; and its religious material, which make it a favorite for churches, synagogues, and post-secondary schools, such as Capilano College (in Vancouver, Canada), through Exit 22 Productions.
London Cast and Creative Team
Paper Mill Cast and Creative Team
Synopsis (American version)
The play opens with the creation story from the Book of Genesis ("Let There Be"). Eve is drawn to the tree of knowledge, even though Father (the God-character is always addressed as "Father" by the other characters) has warned her to stay away ("The Tree of Knowledge"). Father attempts to distract Adam and Eve by playing a game where Adam and Eve name all the animals ("The Naming"). With his children distracted for the time being, everything is right with the newly-created world ("Grateful Children," "Father's Day," and "Perfect"). Eve, however, still hungers for something more than what she has ("The Spark of Creation"). She meets a snake who tempts her with the fruit from the forbidden tree ("In Pursuit of Excellence"). Eve eats the fruit, meaning that she must be banished from the garden of Eden ("The End of a Perfect Day" and "Childhood's End"). In a twist from the Genesis tale, Adam is portrayed as torn between two choices: either he can stay with Father in Eden, or he can eat the fruit and be banished with Eve. He chooses to stay with Eve, even though it means leaving the garden forever ("A World Without You"). Adam and Eve are driven out into the surrounding wilderness and have two children, Cain and Abel ("The Expulsion" and "The Wasteland"). Eve realizes that the same fire that led to her eating the fruit is present in her son Cain ("The Spark of Creation (Reprise 1)"). Cain tells Abel of the problems that Adam and Eve made for them by leaving the garden and says that he intends to find the lost garden ("Lost in the Wilderness"). Adam and Eve find some pleasure in the fact that they have been able to create a life for themselves outside of Eden ("Close to Home"), but this peacefulness is again shattered when Cain says that he has found a ring of stones, proof that they are not the only humans alive; Adam admits that he had seen the ring of stones and the people who live there before but that he had never mentioned it because he was afraid of the potential consequences ("A Ring of Stones"). This leads to a fight between Adam and Cain, but when Abel intervenes he is killed as Cain attempted to kill Adam but hit Abel instead ("The Death of Abel"). Father decrees that Cain's descendants will always bear a mark for the sin of their ancestor ("The Mark of Cain"). Act I closes with Eve about to die. She delivers a monologue about Cain's departure from the family and the birth of another son, Seth, who has since has children of his own. She then sings the title song, in which she prays that her children and her children's children will regain the garden that was lost.
Act II opens with "Generations," a list of the many descendants of Cain and Seth, all the way down to Noah and his family, whose story comprises the second act plot. Father tells Noah that a storm is coming, so Noah must build a boat ("The Gathering Storm"). Noah has three sons, and two of them (Shem and Ham) have wives, but his youngest son, Japheth, is not happy with any of the wives Noah has tried to obtain for him. Instead he wishes to marry the servant-girl Yonah, a descendant of the race of Cain, and Japheth tells this to his surprised family ("A Piece of Eight"); however, Noah will not allow Yonah on the ark. All the animals return so that they can board the ark ("The Return of the Animals" and "Noah's Lullaby"). Japeth helps Yonah hide away on the ark. She sings "Stranger to the Rain," in which she says that she has always faced the problem of being shunned because she bears the mark of Cain. Japheth and Yonah sing "In Whatever Time We Have," which tells of their love for each other. The rain comes, and it keeps raining and raining ("The Flood" and "What Is He Waiting For?"). Yonah releases a dove to find dry land ("Sailor of the Skies"). Yonah is discovered by the rest of the family, but Noah is unsure as to what he must do. His wife asks him if Father speaks to him anymore, and when Noah answers "No," she tells him, "You must be the father now." Noah has to decide what should be done without God telling him what to do ("The Spark of Creation (Reprise 2)"). Noah sings of the difficulties that he has faced in being a father, while at the same time Father sings of the problems he has faced in being a father ("The Hardest Part of Love"). Noah calls the family together ("Words of Doom"). He decides to give Japheth and Yonah his blessing ("The Hour of Darkness"). Then the dove returns and the family again sees the light of the stars. Mama leads the family in the gospel song "Ain't It Good?". Father gives humanity the power to control their fate ("Precious Children"). The family sings of the problems they will face and their desire to someday return to the Garden of Eden ("In The Beginning").
Track Listing for the Original London Cast Recording (1991):
Act I/Disc One:
Act II/Disc Two
Track Listing for the Paper Mill Playhouse Cast Recording (1998):
Act I/Disc One
Act II/Disc Two
External links and references