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REVIEW: Children of Eden (RCS, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland)

Updated: Feb 11

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow

24 May 2023

⭐⭐⭐⭐


Children of Eden at RCS, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow, BA Musical Theatre. Photo: Lisa in the theatre.

Children of Eden is not a musical that I had heard of despite it being written by some musical theatre legends. Music and lyrics are by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked) and the book is by John Caird (Les Mis).


It first opened in the west end in 1991 but quickly closed again just 3 months later after poor reviews and other issues. It was reworked and resurrected in the US in 1997 with much more success and a cast recording. It has since been bubbling along with productions and concerts all over the world and is now considered a musical theatre classic.


Still, I've not read a single review nor heard a single word of the soundtrack and I go into RCS's production with zero expectations. I could really do with my own tree of knowledge right now!


Children of Eden is based on the book of Genesis and takes us from Adam and Eve, all the way through to Noah's ark and the flood. It explores the relationship between parent and child, good and evil, faith and temptation and ultimately - humanity's fall.


Initially this seems an odd choice for an RCS production; they are normally so adventurous and cutting-edge. This sounds more like a Sunday-school lesson. But I needn't have worried! Turns out this is a dramatic, joyous, gritty yet emotional production, full of characters I cared about, a solid soundtrack, and plenty of themes and moral dilemmas that resonate today.


Sara Bartos in Children of Eden at RCS, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow, BA Musical Theatre. Photo credit: Robbie McFadzean/RCS

Not being familiar with the source material I'm not sure how much of what I saw was Director Oliver Lidert's choice - but I'm going to guess that 'Father' being played by a woman, and the use of guns as weapons, are not original features! Lidert's touches of modernisation, his experience and affection for the project shine through in every scene.


As with all final graduation performances from the outgoing BA Musical Theatre students, this show is delivered in collaboration with the MA Musical Direction and BA Production, Design and Technical Theatre programmes. The production team have absolutely outdone themselves this year: the stage, sets and lighting are sensational.


There is an inspired use of 4 simple long wooden beams that are carefully lifted and lowered to magically transform scenes. During the flood, the beams genuinely made me feel that I was on a boat during a storm. It's some kind of wizardry because I wouldn't have believed for a second that so much impact could be achieved with so little. It's phenomenal.


The lighting is gorgeous; from glowing lightbulbs to spots, and hand held torches, the lighting is so important to this production and adds drama and atmosphere throughout.


The cast of Children of Eden at RCS, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow, BA Musical Theatre. Photo credit: Robbie McFadzean/RCS

RCS is home to some of the best musicians in the world and the orchestra here led by David Higham is in full view of the audience in front of the stage. I approve! The audience deserve to see how hard they work and how skilfully they play.


There are A LOT of musical numbers in this show, in fact I'd guess more than 95% of it to be sung-through. The sound mixing and levels were perfect. We could hear every word and every note. Fantastic.


The voices of the cast are astonishing. Their harmonies are glorious and I found myself in tears more than once. Sylvie Stenson's 'Aint it Good?' was a personal highlight, though I found many new songs to enjoy. I think it's because the soundtrack is new yet familiar; I swear there are some bars in the first song 'Let There Be' that are directly from the Little Mermaid's 'A Whole New World.'


The cast of Children of Eden at RCS, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow, BA Musical Theatre. Photo credit: Robbie McFadzean/RCS

As with the BA Acting final performance, I feel it cruel to call out any particular performer as all of them are undoubtedly talented. But there are a few who knocked my socks off:


Sebastian Lim-Seet is so talented it's ridiculous. I saw him in Scots and could not believe he was a student. Here as Adam he is the perfect innocent, ready to be seduced and fall into temptation.


Sara Bartos is an exquisite Eve. Her performance from beginning to end was impeccable; I couldn't look away from her.


Oliver Bullen impressed in both acts as Cain and later Japeth. I was engrossed and completely convinced by him.


Oliver Bullen in Children of Eden at RCS, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, BA Musical Theatre, Glasgow.. Photo credit: Robbie McFadzean/RCS

Yana Harris as Yonah and 'lead snake' managed to bring two very different characters to life beautifully. (And 'Lead snake' is the best character name ever!)


Lyndan Trenholm IS Noah. Anxious yet intent, with the weight of the world truly on his shoulders, the gravity of every decision was evident on Lyndan's face. Someone cast him in the film immediately.


And last by no means least, Star Penders. Another Scots cast member, Star is convincing and commanding in the pivotal role as Father. I wish I had a fragment of her talent and confidence. Incredible.


Star Penders in Children of Eden at RCS, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, BA Musical Theatre, Glasgow. Photo credit: Robbie McFadzean/RCS

They are all going to go far and I can't wait to watch them light-up the stage in future. I think I need to get my autograph book out again!


I can't say that Children of Eden will ever be my favourite musical, but it's absolutely worth seeing and this RCS production is epic, lively and ambitious. This is a great chance to discover a little known musical performed and produced by the future stars of UK, and world theatre. Don't miss it!


⭐⭐⭐⭐




 

🌟 A review of Children of Eden by Stephen Schwartz by BA Musical Theatre, RCS, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow, May 2023 🌟


Disclaimer: *I was invited to review this show by The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. I received a comp ticket in exchange for my Instagram content and blog review. Whether I am gifted a ticket or not has absolutely no impact on my reviews or star ratings!


📸 Follow @Lisa_InTheTheatre on Instagram for more photos and videos.

📧 For media and review requests contact Lisa_InTheTheatre@outlook.com


RCS, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, theatre, performing arts, Glasgow. Photo: Lisa in the theatre.

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