- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 11, 2004

Children of Eden,” running at Ford’s Theatre through early June, is a hyperkinetic New Age musical take on the Bible’s Book of Genesis.

Based on a book by Tony Award-winner John Caird (“Les Miserables” and “Nicholas Nickleby”), with music and lyrics by Tony Award-nominee Stephen Schwartz (“Godspell” and “Pippin”), this accessible, miniextravaganza is family fun loaded with colorful, familiar characters and visually arresting, Cirque du Soleil-style dance numbers. Its take on Judeo-Christian theology, however, is decidedly nonstandard.

“Eden’s” two acts remanufacture two of the Bible’s most enduring tales, the decline and fall of Adam and Eve and the tempest-tossed voyage of Noah’s ark. The basic stories remain intact. However, with true postmodernist panache, the concepts of good and evil are largely peeled away.

Creation, it seems, was just a well-meant caprice by an angst-ridden God who’s doomed to deal with the wild and crazy humans he has just created. Both post-feminist Eve and Mrs. Noah are a lot brighter than their stick-in-the-mud hubbies, who try to take God the Father’s rules seriously. Cain is a pretty bright kid who wants to explore the cosmos and whacks Abel because papa Adam drives him crazy. And everybody disses God, who eventually wises up and figures out that his ur-boomer kids probably really do know better. Peace and love, brother. There’s no exit from the 1960s.

Nonetheless, folks don’t usually go to the theater to hear a sermon. PC tics aside, “Children of Eden” is a largely entertaining story that pitches a positive social message while wisely avoiding cloying sentimentality — though it doesn’t hesitate to pull the heartstrings at times.



The music in this show is largely forgettable, Disneyesque fare, but it’s fun and mostly not overamped. The lyrics actually are quite clever and are well-enunciated by the talented cast of singers.

There are at least three decent songs, two occurring in the second act. The first of these is the calypsolike “Generations” that opens the act and forms a bridge between the two stories. The second is Mama Noah’s gospel-rocker, “Ain’t It Good?” A hat tip also goes to the Act I ensemble novelty number “In Pursuit of Excellence,” in which Eve and a collective snake scheme to tap the forbidden fruit of knowledge whilst singing a sizzling song resplendent with sibilant sounds.

The youthful cast of this show really cooks. It rocks with infectious enthusiasm, and the time flies if you just want to have fun. As a too-young God the Father, Bradley Dean makes up for it with his booming bass-baritone and his air of confused command. Joe Cassidy as Adam/Noah is poised and adept in both roles, in which his cautious nature is forced to evolve and change. As Eve/Mama, Becca Ayers is splendidly exuberant, with a wondrously clear vocal instrument that sells each of her songs with joy and authority.

The second-tier players are no slouches, either. Particularly impressive was Andre Garner (Cain/Japheth) whose silvery high tenor notes regularly pierced the stratosphere without apparent effort. Karen Olivo (Yonah) was convincingly passionate and impressive in her second act showstoppers, “Stranger to the Rain” and “Sailor of the Skies.” Storyteller Tyrone Davis’ voice brilliantly supplied the launch vehicle for Act II’s curtain-raising “Generations.”

**1/2

WHAT: “Children of Eden”

WHERE: Ford’s Theatre, 511 10th St. NW

WHEN: Through June 6. Evening performances are at 7:30 Tuesday through Saturday; matinees are at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 1 p.m. Thursday.

TICKETS: $29 to $40

INFORMATION: Call the box office at 202/347-4833 or Tickets.com at 703/218-6500. Order online at www.fordstheatre.org.

MAXIMUM RATING: Four stars

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