There is a word for the North Carolina Theatre’s gala full-scale production of CHILDREN OF EDEN, and that word is MAGNIFICENT. The storybook scenery borrowed from the Music Theatre of Wichita, Kansas; the sets designed by J. Branson; and the properties designed by Heather Garrett are lush. The lighting by Robert Hand is luminous and the brightly colored biblical costumes provided by the Paper Mill Playhouse (the State Theatre of New Jersey) and those created especially for NCT by Denise Schumaker are a veritable feast for the eye. Particularly impressive are the elaborate outfits for the awesome array of animals who appear before Adam and Eve in "The Naming" scene in Act I and return in Act II to file into Noah’s Ark, two by two.

Broadway veteran Craig Schulman, a highly talented supporting cast of rising Broadway stars and accomplished local performers, and exuberant instrumental accompaniment by musical director/conductor McCrae Hardy and his orchestra again demonstrate why many critics consider CHILDREN OF EDEN to be the best biblical rock musical of all time. Vacation Bible School was never like this! Composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz (GODSPELL and PIPPIN) and librettist John Caird, who co-directed LES MISÉRABLES, employ soaring melodies, humorous and poignant lyrics, and bright, witty dialogue to retell the first nine chapters of the Book of Genesis as a story of "second chances" in which problematical parent-child relationships take center stage.

The authors take a few liberties with the biblical text, most noticeably in adding the character of the beautiful servant girl Yonah (Stephanie Fredricks) of the race of Cain to the story of the Flood to create more dramatic tension in Act II. But this joyous and inspirational musical remains faithful to the spirit of the original story. In CHILDREN OF EDEN, a loving but lonely Father/God (Craig Schulman) creates Adam and Eve (Joe Cassidy and Sabrina Scherff) in his own image, delights in his "children," takes a fatherly interest in their affairs, and denies them nothing except the eating of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

But, wouldn’t you know it, the ever-curious Eve cannot resist the temptation to taste that very fruit. After Eve eats of the Forbidden Fruit, and after Adam refuses Father’s order to cast her off, they both are expelled from the Garden of Eden into the rugged Wilderness, where they eke out a hard-scrabble existence, still faithful to Father, and all the while hoping that He will again speak to them. With the arrival of the young Cain and Abel (Florian Kreuk and Whitney Royal in a frisky cameo) comes the first Generation Gap between parents and children. Later, the adult Cain and Abel (Ray Walker and Jeremy Woodard) peacefully coexist until that terrible day when an infuriated Cain violently argues with Adam. When his younger brother tries to intervene, Cain furiously attacks and kills Abel in a powerful scene that hits the audience like a punch to the solar plexus.