By Sarah Kuper
It was the first production theater professor Don Sandley directed after he arrived at Samford University. Now, 20 years later, he is thrilled to once again share the Stephen Schwartz musical “Children of Eden” with the community.
“This will be a more sophisticated production because the program has grown so much,” Sandley said, “But the first production was very popular because Alan Gardner played the God role. Alan was amazing.”
Gardner was a well-known and loved professional actor, theater teacher and director in Birmingham. He passed away in 2016.
“Alan passed away more than a year ago, so for me, revisiting the piece is something very special,” Sandley said.
In the 2018 production of “Children of Eden,” contemporary Christian artist David Phelps will play the role of God.
According to Sandley, Phelps has a loyal following across the country. He first came to prominence as a tenor in the Gaither Vocal Band.
The production tells the story of creation and Noah and the ark.
“It is visually very impressive. Not to give anything away, but there will be puppets, animals and special effects. The choreography is beautiful. We are creating the professional look of a musical. If people are fond of the Broadway in Birmingham series, this will chase that feeling,” Sandley said.
Plus, the music may remind the audience of other successful shows by composer Stephen Schwartz.
“Schwartz did ‘Godspell’ and ‘Wicked.’ The audience may recognize his style from ‘Wicked,’ in particular,” Sandley said.
The music and the Phelps performance are not the only things the show has going for it. Sandley said the Samford University theater department is full of talent and passion.
“The program has more than tripled in size since I came. There is just so much more to perform with.”
Sandley served as chair of the department for 20 years. He recently stepped down to focus on writing and teaching.
“Children of Eden” runs April 26-29 at the Samford University Wright Center. Tickets are available at samford.edu/wrightcenter.
Sandley said it is a perfect show for families.
“Children and their grandparents can be equally excited about a wonderful night out at the theater,” he said.