Sunday, January 29, 2012

Review: Children of Eden

Stephen Schwartz’s lost musical.

All theatre geeks (especially those fond of that other show he wrote; Wicked) have heard of Children of Eden, but few have seen it. After all, a musical about the first few chapters of Genesis doesn’t sound immediately gripping.

This is a special one-night-only charity gala performance, and it’s brought together a killer cast of West End stars. The Prince of Wales Theatre is usually the home of Mamma Mia,  so the staging for this performance is pared back – a few large blocks on the stage and assorted lightbulbs dangling. This simple approach works a treat and allows the actors to really own the stage.

Opening the show are Oliver Thornton (Adam/Felicia in Priscilla) and Louise Dearman (Glinda in Wicked) as Adam and Eve. Thornton’s performance is good, but a little self-conscious. His voice, though excellent, is slightly too thin for the role. Dearman, on the other hand, proves herself capable far beyond the (already vocally demanding) role of cutesy Glinda. She effortlessly navigates through complicated Schwartzian melodies, bringing a caramel smooth Streisand sound to the role without losing that essential feeling of Eve’s humanity. She’s flawless, and by far the standout of the night.

The other conspicuously brilliant performance comes from Gareth Gates as Cain. I was sceptical when I read about his casting. Coming runner-up to Will Young in the first series of Pop Idol doesn’t exactly qualify someone to perform with the cream of London theatre. But I was wrong. Gareth is a theatre singer first, pop singer second. He approaches the role in Ramin Karimloo style: nimble, powerful, graceful, and impressive.

Gareth Gates as Cain.
I’m grateful when he kills his brother, because a woman I can only assume is Abel’s mum is sitting next to me and won’t stop snapping pictures of his every move on her very bright mobile phone. She leaves at half time, which I’m also grateful for because she isn’t exactly built like a ballerina and has been spilling over onto my seat for most of the first act.

Act II is less remarkable than Act I. There are some decent melodies and performers, but none so promising as Eve or Cain and their first act ballads. Still, the chorus sound wonderful together – voices fusing far more smoothly than you usually see when a group of soloists perform choral work.

The best moments in the second act come from Laura Samuels as servant girl Yonah, and Brenda Edwards (Killer Queen, We Will Rock You) as Mama Noah. Though she stole the second act with her gospel number, Edwards looked bored whenever she wasn’t singing. A shame.

After the performance, the director invites the writer of the show to the stage. I just about wet myself.

Unfortunately, it’s not Stephen Schwartz. It’s whatshisname who wrote the unremarkable book. But this disappointment is quickly forgotten when the reigning queen of London theatre, Kerry Ellis, takes the stage to finish the evening with an original song that’s been written for her; the somewhat unoriginally titled “Heal the World”. Her voice, of course, brings down the house.

Overall, a fantastic performance by true theatre stars who deserve every accolade they have heaped upon them.

Kerry Ellis.


  1. Thank you! AM soo thrilled you saw what to me has always been such a special show..... and I DO love the way you write - makes me feel like I am there with you..... but i DID crack up about the "It’s whatshisname who wrote the unremarkable book" and seeing so it was was based on Genesis had this image of one of the original writers of the Bible getting up there - which would have been damn impressive!

  2. Haha love it! Glad you enjoyed the review... I was making mental notes the whole time because I knew I'd promised you! x