Children of Eden | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Children of Eden, Village Players Theatre. Not as polished as Porchlight Theatre's 2002 revival, Diane Fisher Post's staging offers the partial recompense of homespun warmth and community-theater camaraderie. An Old Testament spin-off of Godspell by composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz, this playful gospel musical ranges from the Creation to the Flood to gently expose God as a capricious father and his family as dysfunctional. A control freak, God must learn to let go and permit free will. Less frolicsome than Godspell and less operatic than Pippin, this work is still vintage Schwartz, blending folksy fun (like the procession of animals into the ark and gospel rouser "Ain't It Good") with soulful ballads (the exquisite "In Whatever Time We Have").

Despite occasionally flat singing and acting, the traffic-control challenges of a large cast, and mysterious pauses, the Village Players' staging is sturdy, clearly honoring the musical's family values. The very roughness of the performances suggests a diverse clan making up their fate as they go along. Anchoring the storytelling is Dan Bredesen's commanding God, the not-so-almighty Father. Playing both Adam and Noah, James Edward Dauphin believably invents or saves humanity, and Julia Hurn is persuasive as their epic spouses. But the big news is Folin Ponce de Leon's electrifying Yonah, a descendant of Cain. When De Leon belts out "Stranger to the Rain," it's the sound of a star being born.

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