Long before "Wicked" but after he composed "Godspell," Stephen Schwartz wrote the music and lyrics for "Children of Eden," a retelling of the Old Testament stories of Adam and Eve and Noah's ark.
They're slight stories -- considering we all know how it ends -- almost overwhelmed by dramatic song after song after song.
In the production at Breakthrough Theatre in Winter Park, director Wade Hair and musical director Robb Ross fill their simple stage with chorus members, who add power to the Schwartz's sometimes overwrought music, but who aren't all suited for solo lines.
The book, by John Caird, takes too long to get moving -- there's a lot of music about naming animals and explaining the forbidden tree -- but things pick up when Cain murders Abel. Act 2 is even brisker -- Schwartz saved all the best songs for this act -- and a Romeo-and-Juliet style love story gives the familiar story of Noah an added dimension.
The leading ladies have songs that let them shine: Erynn Hair's heartfelt "Stranger to the Rain" and Krystal Gillette's raise-the-roof "Ain't it Good." Ross, who also plays Adam/Noah, is at his best during the touching "The Hardest Part of Love." And as the star-crossed lovers, John Gracey shares a lovely duet with Erynn Hair, "In Whatever Time We Have."
Wyatt Glover, in the God role called "Father" in the play, shows how quickly parental disappointment can lead to anger.
This is a story that screams for simplicity; it's really just a mediation on the idea of parents letting children lead their own lives. So the large chorus, flashing lights and background animal sounds serve more as a distraction than an enhancement to the tale's sentiments.
More effective: The simple, stark red lighting and staging when Gracey as the murderous Cain, stricken, angry, terrified, crouches on the ground as God brands him with the mark of evil. A shivery moment that reminded me just how wrathful the God of the Old Testament could be.
DETAILS: 8 p.m. Friday & Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. Breakthrough Theatre, 419A W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park. $18; $15 seniors; $12 students. 407-920-4034.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun