UMTG to perform “Children of Eden”

By Jessica Troland

Flickr/Peter Watson Scenic

The former flop turned favorite – “Children of Eden” – will be performed by the University of Massachusetts Theatre Guild on Thursday through Saturday in Bowker Auditorium.

“Children of Eden” features music and lyrics produced by Stephen Schwartz with the original book by John Caird. The musical is an indirect retelling of three biblical stories: Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel and Noah and the flood. The religious series of tales indirectly teaches audiences about violence, family and love. Instead of a direct reenactment of each story, Schwartz takes the opportunity to create new stories built from the original biblical stories.

The play opened on a London stage on Jan. 8, 1991 and closed on April 6, 1991 due to poor attendance and reviews. After its brief stage life, Schwartz took his creation back to the drawing board. The revised version of the play was first performed in 1997 at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J. The production experienced its first taste of Broadway spotlight when it opened in New York City shortly after.

After years of striving to achieve perfection, Schwartz’s revised edition received praise unfamiliar to the production its first time around. The biblical tale has been named one of the “most-frequently-licensed” shows by its publisher, Music Theatre International.

The basic values of the show have greatly contributed to its overall success and popularity. “Children of Eden” has become a favorite in schools and religious communities everywhere – even Schwartz has called “Children of Eden” his favorite out of all his works. Schwartz also wrote the music and lyrics for the acclaimed Broadway shows “Wicked” and “Godspell.”

This weekend, “Children of Eden” will be performed and produced by the UMass Theatre Guild. Students will execute everything from set design to acting.

“Children of Eden” follows various well-known religious figures such as Father (God), Adam, Eve, Noah, Cain and Able as well as a plethora of storytellers. Junior Ronald Vorce will play the role of Father/God. Vorce is a linguistics and psychology major with a minor in Chinese. He has been in multiple previous performances through UMass, including “Rent” and “Sweeney Todd.”

The role of Adam will be played by sophomore Elliot Bruce. Bruce was involved in various productions during his high schools years, including “Guys and Dolls,” “The Music Man,” “My Fair Lady,” “Les Miserables,” and “The Secret Garden.” The experienced actor is currently an undeclared major with an interest in economics.

Lisa Bettencourt will be playing the role of Eve. Bettencourt plans to graduate from UMass in December with a degree in psychology, communication and film studies. She has participated in the Theatre Guild’s productions of both “Rent” and “Spelling Bee.”

Some of “Children of Eden’s” actors and actresses are assigned to multiple roles, such as Luke Baker playing Cain and Japheth. Cain is the eldest son of Adam and Eve and Japheth is the eldest son of Noah. “Children of Eden” is Baker’s first UMass Theatre Guild production, although he has had some previous acting experience. The freshman biology major’s high school performances include “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” “Our Town,” “Les Miserables: School Edition” and “Oklahoma!”

Ethan Berube will play Abel, the younger brother of Cain. Berube is a junior theatre and communication major. Berube has been in three previous UMass Theatre Guild productions. He has participated in “Rent,” “Sweeney Todd” and “Cabaret” in addition to high school productions.

Noah will be played by Alan Couture, a sophomore theatre major. Couture has appeared in previous UMass Theatre Guild Productions such as “Death of a Salesman.”

“Children of Eden” opens tonight at 8 p.m., and additional performances will be held on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 11 and 12, at the same time. There will be an afternoon showing on Saturday at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased prior to the event at the Fine Arts Center or at the door.

Jessica Troland can be reached at [email protected]