Before Stephen Schwartz wrote for “Pocahontas,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Enchanted,” along with the hugely successful “Wicked,” the composer-lyricist crafted a little show called “Children of Eden.”
While the musical may not be as popularly known as his other works, “Children of Eden” is “the work of which I am most proud,” Schwartz said in a Q-and-A on his website. “I think it is my best score musically.”
Alane Schultz, director of the CenterPoint Legacy Theatre production, wholeheartedly agrees.
“The harmonies so masterfully emphasize the poetic lyrics,” she said. “Stephen Schwartz has also said it’s almost impossible to ‘underproduce’ the show. You can do it in a small blackbox theater with only blocks, fabric and lighting to tell the simple story. It can also be beautifully staged with large budgets creating lifelike animal costumes and building Noah’s Ark on stage. The quality of the story doesn’t change with whatever your theater can afford to do.”
While this “simple story” is based on stories told in the Book of Genesis, the emphasis is on "personal responsibility, rebellion, intellectual independence, as well as overcoming family dysfunctions," Schwartz said.
“These themes are really what this story is about,” Schultz said. “The ‘religious material’ is only that we are using characters from the Bible to tell an ageless story. The stories are not meant to be flawless retellings from the Bible. The use of Bible characters allows Schwartz's themes of family, love, greed, anger, etc., and how they can carry from generation to generation until the cycle is broken. Audiences shouldn’t expect to see the Bible stories retold. They should expect to see a lovely story about parent-and-child relationships, something we can all relate to.”
Schultz described songs such as “The Hardest Part of Love” and “In Whatever Time We Have” as “masterfully crafted.”
“The harmonies are wonderful, intoxicating really,” she said. “I can’t express how many times we as a production team have sighed, teared up or just fully sobbed as we listened to a song for the hundredth time. (Schwartz) deals with several different musical styles in this particular piece, including barbershop, gospel, hymns and classic legit musical theater, all of which match the characters perfectly.”
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“I adore the entire cast, both casts,” she said. “The show is double-cast, as CenterPoint is known to do. Either cast will deliver a phenomenal show. The staging conventions are simple, so we’ve relied on our talented actors to tell the story through very good vocals and acting. I’m proud of that.
“This has been a special experience for all the cast and production team. We are all very proud of the work.”
If you go ...
What: “Children of Eden”
Where: CenterPoint Legacy Theatre's Barlow Main Stage, 525 N. 400 West, Centerville
When: June 23-July 19, 7:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday
How much: $17-$22