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City of Fairfax Theatre Company Children of Eden

By • Aug 1st, 2009 • Category: Reviews
Children of Eden
City of Fairfax Theatre Company
Fairfax High School, Fairfax, VA
$10 in advance/$12 at door
Playing through August 2nd
Reviewed July 31st, 2009

First came the New Testament. Then came the Old Testament. Or at least so goes the gospel according to Steven Schwartz.

His musical Godspell was a considerable success in 1971. It was based on the early books of the Christian Bible. His 1991 musical Children of Eden was based on the Hebrew Bible. Upon opening, Children struggled with bad reviews and disappointed audiences and quickly closed.

But songwriter Schwartz and his librettist John Caird kept tinkering with Children. Eventually they came up with something that is popular with community theaters and school groups. It has a huge cast. Cute kids play cute animals. Adam and Eve, and then Noah and his wife, sketch in the universals of mom, dad and the sometimes unruly kids.

And then there’s the powerful but peevish character known as “Father.” He creates heaven and earth and all living beings. He particularly dotes on humans. But they
are unruly and disobedient. It makes him SO angry. And anger is not one bit good for his character. He comes across as a petulant tyrant.

Jim Hoffman handles the Father role nicely for the newly created City of Fairfax Theatre Company, which has chosen Children of Eden as its inaugural production. Hoffman makes an impressively bi-polar Father — now kindly and encouraging, now wrathful and vindictive.

Like the rest of the vast cast, however, Hoffman has trouble with his head mike. At least that was the case on opening night. Like the God of Creation, CFTC artistic director Michael Replogle has some unresolved just-getting-started production issues to cope with. In Replogle’s case, there’s a well-rehearsed and competent six-person orchestra. Unfortunately, the orchestra is so strong that it often overbears the singers. Lyrics get lost in their accompaniments. And the microphones, on opening night, couldn’t do much about that.

Children of Eden, even in its improved form, isn’t a gripping drama. The CFTC actor/singers struggle gamely with an essentially static pageant representing a super well-known story. Children has none of the quirky characters and tragic pathos of Godspell.

When Andrew Lloyd Webber used Biblical materials for Jesus Christ Superstar and then for Joseph and the Amazing Technical Dream Coat, both his Old and New Testament riffs came to life with startling characters and infinitely varied song styles. Godspell has a little of that. But Children? Alas, no.

Part of a new community theater company’s mandate is to grab an audience. One way of doing that is to use a large cast that includes lots and lots of children — most of whom have loyal moms and dads, grandpas and grandmas, uncles and aunts, neighbors and friends. CFTC artistic director has at least captured a large friendly audience for his start up show.

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lives in Arlington with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren. Before retiring last year at age 70, he was theater critic at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for 27 years. Prior to that, he reviewed plays for the Philadelphia Bulletin, the Texas Observer and the Swarthmore College Phoenix. Non-reviewing journalistic jobs include writing for the Houston Chronicle, the San Juan (Puerto Rico) Star and El Mundo de San Juan. Think about it: most of the papers he worked for no longer exist. Maybe this internet gig has better longevity prospects.

One Response »

  1. Ouch. I don’t kow if you are always this kind, as I’ve not reviewed your reviews….
    I saw the show tonight (Sat. Aug 1) and there was 1 mike that sounded like there was a short in wiring. That was tough and I understand the criticism. However the singing was the most powerful I’ve seen in this or any community theatre production. I think strong interest in this retelling by John Caird and Stephen Schwartz can only be distinguished through the music and dialogue. In that regard, this group hit it out of the park. The storytellers didn’t even need mikes as their voices filled the large theatre, and what about Adam? Curious on your positive notes, too.
    Thanks for writing.