Review: Children Of Eden - Prince Of Wales Theatre, London

Children Of Eden
John Wilding & Gareth Gates
Photo by Claire Bilyard
Sunday 29th January 2012, 7pm - Stephen Schwartz and John Caird's Children of Eden took over the Prince of Wales theatre last night for a star-studded performance in aid of crohn's and colitis UK. The charity gala showed off some of the west end's best talent, with the wonderful cast including Louise Dearman, Oliver Thornton and a guest performance from Kerry Ellis. 

The musical itself first opened in 1991, running for only 4 months, and some of Schwartz's songs echo his later music in Wicked. I must admit it wasn't the most exciting musical I've ever seen but the production and cast more than made up for that. Act 1 opened with Let It Be, sung by Anton Stephans and telling the story of creation. Stephans was brilliant in the part of God and had a childlike innocence and joy in his creation of the world and his children Adam and Eve, played by Oliver Thornton and Louise Dearman.

Lauren Samuels & Waylon Jacobs
Photo by Claire Bilyard
Louise Dearman should be noted not just for her voice - and a stunning rendition of The Spark of Creation - but also for her acting, portraying a great innocence and vulnerability in her questioning and thirst for knowledge. For me she was a truly wonderful Eve. Oliver Thornton was fantastic at portraying the joyful younger Adam and the transition into fatherhood where his character took a sharp change when his sons Cain and Abel were introduced.

Both Ben Radcliffe as young Cain and Gareth Gates as adult Cain were strong in the part and Radcliffe's scenes with Marcus Billany who played young Abel were brilliantly funny. John Wilding's performance of adult Abel was good and he has a lovely voice, but although he played a shy character I always felt his nerves were real, not acted. With a bit of confidence I'm sure he will make a strong performer. 

Waylon Jacobs, Tom Pearce & Brenda Edwards
Photo by Claire Bilyard
In Act 2 the plot changes to Noah and the arc and for me the highlight of it was Brenda Edwards as Mamma Noah and her version of Ain't It Good? Edwards has a fabulous voice and it was a shame she didn't get to show it off more because she had the whole theatre wanting more. Tom Pearce was also strong as Noah, as were Waylon Jacobs as Japeth and Lauren Samuels as Yonah. Although Japeth and Yonah's love became the main part of the story, the remaining characters in the second half all seemed to have perfectly decent voices but were very underused and felt like background characters.

Throughout the show the plot was carried by a group of six storytellers, who all had lovely voices and some great harmonies, but particularly noteworthy was Chloe Hart, who really stood out. In addition there was a choir made up of 36 professionals and theatre students who sounded beautiful and added a softness to some of the songs.

The evening ended with moving speeches from John Caird and Richard Driscoll (chief executive of the charity crohn's and colitis UK) and a special performance by Kerry Ellis of a new song Heal the World. Ellis, who said the song was donated to the charity but written with her in mind (and in her range!), was a stunning end to the concert and it was clear by their reaction that the rest of the audience agreed.

The whole night was a brilliant one in aid of a fantastic charity and hopefully helped raise a lot of money. Everyone involved that donated time, talent and technical skills deserves the highest recognition.

Review by Louise Miles