Stephen Schwartz wrote the biblical musical Children Of Eden in 1989, during the period between Rags and Pocahontas. Unlike those two projects, he wrote music and lyrics for this retelling of the Noah story, just as he did in the Godspell and Pippin days. John Caird, director of the Royal Shakespeare Company's recent Midsummer Night's Dream, is the librettist.
Since premiering in London in 1991, the show has never come to New York, though it's received regional (and revised) productions at Massachusetts, Virginia and Kansas. Children Of Eden will get a new lease on life, however, at NJ's Paper Mill Playhouse, opens Nov. 14 and runs to Dec. 14.
"I think it's the best show I've ever done and I just want to get it right," said Schwartz in a statement. "That's why I'm pleased to be at Paper Mill. I feel that the show is right, and if we are able to do a good production here...people will be able to see for themselves what it is."
Starring in the multi-ethnic cast are Stephanie Mills (of The Wiz fame), and Adrian Zmed (Grease!, TV's "T.J. Hooker"). Also romping in Eden are Darius de Haas (Kiss Of The Spider Woman), Kelli Rabke (Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), William Solo (Jean Valjean in Les Miz), Cheryl Allison, Damron Armstrong, Yu Asuka, Emy Baysic, Jon Jon Briones, David Burtka, Donna Clark, Vincent D'Elia, Shawn Emamjomeh, Hunter Foster, Sheetal Gandhi, Angela Garrison, Enders Groff, Steve Hogle, Michael Hunsaker, Elmore James, Capathia Jenkins, Trent Armand Kendall, Gary Kilmer, Lynnette Marrero, Rozz Morehead, Therese Panicali, Susan Pfau, Dena Risha, Beth Roe, Bart Shatto, Jimmy Smagula, Jim Weaver and Christopher Windom. The show also features a chorus.
Designing Eden are Michael Anania (set), Gregg Barnes (costumes) and Jack Mehler (lighting). Dan Kosarin serves as music director, with Dawn DiPasquale choreographing. Children Of Eden is the second show of Paper Mill's 60th anniversary season (Big River was the first wave). Robert Johanson serves as artistic director of the playhouse, the official state theatre of New Jersey. Classic musicals previously revived at the Millburn theatre include South Pacific, Show Boat and Gigi; newer works include Chess, Jane Eyre and Comfortable Shoes.
Still upcoming this season will be:
THE NUTCRACKER (the New Jersey Ballet featuring the Paper Mill Playhouse Orchestra) (Dec. 19-28).
THE MASK OF MORIARTY (Nicholas Martin directs a brand new Sherlock Holmes comic-mystery-thriller, from Hugh Leonard, author of Da). (Jan. 7-Feb. 15, 1998)
DEATH OF A SALESMAN (Arthur Miller's Pulitzer-Prize winning drama will feature Hal Holbrook, of Mark Twain Tonight renown. Gerald Freedman directs. Other plays by Miller include The American Clock and After The Fall. (Feb. 24-April 5, 1998)
FOLLIES (Robert Johanson directs the legendary Sondheim musical about veteran vaudevillians remembering their youth. Songs include "Losing My Mind" and "Waiting For The Girls Upstairs." (April 15-May 31)
THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES (The 1991 Tony winner for best musical, the shows tells a fanciful version of the life story of Rogers, one of America's most popular entertainer/comedians. Peter Stone wrote the book, Betty Comden & Adolph Green the lyrics, Cy Coleman the score. (June 10-July 26, 1998).
For tickets or information: (973) 376-4343.
--By David Lefkowitz