By Jody Key — Managing Editor
The much anticipated CHILDREN OF EDEN opened at Aurora Theatre this past weekend to a full house. This musical theater offering with music and lyrics by Stephen Swartz and a book by John Caird has become a musical theater favorite since its opening, in 1991 on London’s West End. The story is based on the Biblical book of Genesis and focuses on Creation to the slaying of Abel by Cain in act I and Noah and the flood in Act II.
This is an Epic story to tell, and Aurora does so in an outstanding way. From the moment Father, played by Brad Raymond, enters the stage to create the earth and its inhabitants, his amazing voice fills the space along with splashes of light. As the ensemble enters, audience members are treated to amazing vocals, acting, dancing, and a story that is well known and loved. It’s the story of humanity and a parent’s dream for their children. It’s the story of conflict as children often have dreams of their own. It’s a story for the ages, that audience members of all generations can relate to and take away life lessons from.
What Aurora has created under the direction of Justin Anderson is a visual and auditory masterpiece. The set, designed by Shannon Robert, seems simple yet is surprising versatile, with a round floor containing hidden compartments which house props and set pieces that are added and taken away as needed, including the very large Tree of Wisdom in the Garden of Eden. The set is flanked by two curved and raked platforms that can be moved to create different effects, including the bow of the arc for the Great Flood scenes in Act II. There is also scaffolding along the sides and back of the set that add levels to create stunning visual pictures of the cast as they portray various animals and humans. Lighting design by Maria Christina Fuste along with Projection Design by Milton Cordero accent the story and add amazing elements to the set. Choreography by Atlanta favorite Ricardo Aponte doesn’t disappoint, and tells the story beautifully. The costumes, designed by Alan Yeong, are breathtaking–from Father’s intricate white garment to the simple flowing garments of each character with pieces that are added and taken away as they portray several generations of characters. Most interesting were the abstract white head-pieces and body pieces added to portray animals in the arc. Finally, the music under the direction of Ann Carol Pence is the backbone of the story and this cast’s vocals are unmatched in their scope and beauty.
The production is also brimming with top-notch performances. Brad Raymond as Father commands the stage and his presence is larger than life. Maxim Gukhman as Adam and Noah captures the essence of what it is to be a son and also a father making tough choices for the family. Naima Carter Russell as Eve and Mama mesmerizes with her incredible vocals and beautiful stage presence. Other Key-noteworthy performances are delivered by Russell Alexander II as Cain and Japeth, Haden Rider as Able and Ham, and Briana Young as Yonah. The entire ensemble blends seamlessly from one scene to the next to tell the story with rich vocals and beautiful harmonies.
The first show of Aurora’s season, this is a story of new beginnings which mirrors Aurora’s new beginning as they are in the midst of expansion. This show is a beautiful testament to humankind. CHILDREN OF EDEN runs until September 1st. Tickets can be purchased at https://www.auroratheatre.com/productions-and-programs/view/children-of-eden/