'Children of Eden' a life-affirming musical for whole family

12:01:00 AM CDT - Thursday, May 03, 2007

By Shannon Littlejohn

Both human and animal forms will take the Wilner Auditorium stage the first weekend of May for a musical look at the biblical first family of Adam and Eve, their naming of the animals, and beyond.

"Children of Eden," with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz ("Pippin," "Godspell," "Wicked") and book by John Caird, is freely based on the Bible's Book of Genesis. The first act follows Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden to their life after expulsion from paradise, a life now with sons Cain and Abel. The second act centers around Noah, his family, and the flood.

Children of Eden costume fitting
Photo by David Dinell
Costume designer Betty Monroe, left, helps out Aubrey Hensley with a unicorn costume for the “Children of Eden” production. A construction hard hat forms the base of the unicorn’s head.
The show is described as "mature but family-friendly" as it portrays humanity's first family and the intergenerational conflicts passed on from parent to child. It is a frank, heartfelt and often humorous musical, say critics.

"It's really life-affirming," said Linda Starkey, associate director of the opera and musical theater program. Starkey is directing "Children of Eden," a combined production with Mainstage Theatre.

"It's a wonderful mix of students working together," Starkey said of the melding of theater, music theater, music and dance majors.

Having a guest choreographer, alumna Dawn DiPasquale from New York City, has been a thrill for everyone involved, said Starkey. She noted that DiPasquale did the original choreography for "Children of Eden" at New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse and even observed zoo animals in her research for how to approach the animal characters.

Another guest artist and alum is Shaun Michael-Morse, an actor and director in New York. He'll play Father (a.k.a. God).

Betty Monroe, the professor who oversees the costume shop in Wilner Auditorium, is having a grand, if breathless, time with the show.

"This show is out of control; it's crazy," said Monroe. "I just made a run for feathers."

She and her students are creating masks for the animals who are dancing and heads that will sit on actors' heads for such beasts as horses, zebras, unicorns and lions.

"It is a zoo in there right now," Monroe joked about the second-floor costume shop. "Little furry costumes" for the children who are little rabbits, foxes, monkeys, even a skunk, are being made, too.

The WSU School of Performing Arts will present "Children of Eden" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, May 3-5; and at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 6, in Wilner Auditorium. Tickets are $15 with discounts available. Call 978-3233 for reservations. "Children of Eden" is rated G.


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