The story of Adam and Eve is the subject of a major new musical which will be touring arenas across the UK from December.
Starring West End favourites Kerry Ellis and Hugh Maynard, and featuring the voice of Russell Watson, Heaven On Earth will focus on the Biblical story of the first man and woman and their fall from grace.
The lavish production will create an on-stage Garden of Eden with special effects involving fire, water and animatronics.
Written by Sara Jeffs and directed and choreographed by Racky Plews, the production will launch at Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena from 4-7 December.
Commenting on the project, writer Jeffs said: “It is so very exciting to see my script coming to life in Heaven On Earth. This brand new musical, and its original emotive songs, will resonate with people of all ages and backgrounds, and stay with the audience long after they view this thrilling and visual treat of a production.
“The story of Adam and Eve is the oldest and greatest story ever told and whether you are someone with faith or someone who just enjoys the theatre and a great show this will appeal to you.”
Currently working on the Thoroughly Modern Millie tour, Plews will head a creative team that includes set designer Jacqueline Pyle who worked on the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies and Take That’s Progress Live Tour, and arranger Geoff Alexander (Harry Potter, Notting Hill).
Presented by Eden International Productions, Heaven On Earth will visit Cardiff Motorpoint Arena (15-18 January 2018), Nottingham Motorpoint Arena (27-30 January), Leeds First Direct Arena (9-12 February), Manchester Arena (22-25 February), Sheffield Arena (7-10 March), Edinburgh Royal Highland Centre (14-17 March), Liverpool Echo Arena Liverpool (22-25 March), Aberdeen AECC Arena (28-31 March), Portsmouth Guildhall (4-7 April), Newcastle Radio Metro Arena (11-14 April, Glasgow Clyde Auditorium (18-21 April), Exeter Westpoint Arena (26-29 April), and The SSE Arena, Wembley (9-12 May).
Musical Theatre Review contributor Tal Fox attended the launch for Heaven On Earth and chatted to star HUGH MAYNARD and writer SARA JEFFS:
HUGH MAYNARD (playing Adam)
What is it going to be like performing this show in arenas rather than theatres?
It’s bigger, it’s brighter, the sound, the visuals: it’s just epic. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t know very much about budgets, but Eden International has just gone all out and splurged. They’re not afraid to try new things, which is really risky, but it’s inspiring at the same time.
Have you ever done a show in an arena before?
No, I haven’t. When I was with the Tenors of Rock we did perform in a number of arenas around the UK, in fact all over the world, so that has probably put me in in good place for this.
I’m not daunted by the size of the audiences. The show itself is going to be huge. It pretty much has to live up to its surroundings.
I truly think it’s going to be the age of innocence at the beginning of the piece. I know God said don’t touch the apple, but Adam’s not scared, he has just been asked not to do something. Obviously later he starts to feel regret, sorrow, remorse; but essentially we finish with hope.
It’s a great journey and we’re going to have a heck of a time trying to get that across to an arena audience. So yes, size does matter. I’m certainly going to enjoy the challenge.
How far through the production process are you?
I’ve been on board for four or five weeks and every day there’s emails coming through with new information, but at the same time because of what it is, the producer can’t give too much away.
I don’t know the songs, there’s just little things that are now being shared. The next process is to workshop, which starts in September. I’ll be given things gradually and then I’ll be on my feet.
We have to work out between us what carries over to the audience, because the size of the arenas means certain things have to be bigger than they would be on a stage. And if it doesn’t look real, then it’s just a case of okay, and that doesn’t work.
There’s going to be lots of trials and lots of errors, but at the end of the day, everyone is so positive about this piece. I truly feel it’s going to be a success. I’m enjoying it.
I’m being selfish right now and not asking questions, I’m thinking what do I want Adam to do.
How was the show pitched to you?
I was asking questions like is this like HillSong the musical? Am I preaching or being preached to? Is this a sermon? Actually it’s none of the above. It’s just music that is genuine, written from the heart, inspired by a six-year-old daughter, and it reminds us of the story of what many faiths consider to be the beginning of human time. I have great respect for that
We’re not here to preach, we’re here to tell a story and it will be fantastic.
It’s risky, taking stories from the Bible…
There’s a huge risk, Jesus Christ Superstar suffered for many years, then it became a bit of a cult thing, made a return in the mid to late 70s in the film version, and after that it became the stage version – it went full circle. Fortunately, we have the luck of hindsight from other people’s experiences, but a lot of thought has gone into this.
What has it been like working with the cast so far?
I’ve only had today, so I learnt the song and worked with the orchestra for the first time. It’s a ride and it’s an adventure and everyone that’s here wants to be here, it makes such a big difference. I love relationships, I’m enjoying working with the people I’m working with.
SARA JEFFS (writer)
How did the idea come to you?
I’ve always loved to write, right from being a young girl, and it’s always just been a way of expressing the things that are dearest to my heart. I love poetry and that just progressed into songwriting because I’ve always loved music too; where you feel the emotional connection to songs you hear.
But just a couple of years ago I was putting my daughter to bed one evening, waiting for her to fall asleep. I think you have those moments of reflection, and I started to think about this story form the Bible that I’d grown up hearing, this story of Adam and Eve.
But rather than it being from my own perspective, I began to think about how Adam must have felt to have paradise and then to lose it, and then to feel responsible for that. I think everyone on some level can connect to those feelings of loss or regret. It felt quite emotional, and out of that came the first song.
That was the first song and then it grew from there over the next year and a half. I felt inspired to write more and more songs that quickly took shape as this musical and it was like the script and everything just fell into place and it was this incredible story to tell. Adam is the protagonist of this story but we’ve also got Eve’s perspective and we’ve got God’s perspective. We’ve got the perspective of their decedents and how they feel, so we’ve got all these different elements.
How is the process working out?
This is the imagining and deeper exploration of what the characters felt, so the highs and lows in this incredible story of hope and redemption. They find hope and redemption in their circumstances.
Did you plan for the piece to play arenas?
No, not at all. Never did I foresee in those early days that it would become this big. I could have never imagined that.
Is there another show you can compare the style to?
It’s really tough to make comparisons. There are musicals that I’d love to compare it to, but I think it’s just the emotional journey that musical theatre takes you on. I can remember the first musical I ever watched when I was 12 and feeling immersed in that world. It was West Side Story and afterwards the songs stayed with me, the highs and the lows of the story, The way musical theatre can tell a story is incredible.
How do you feel about the cast and creative team?
It’s such a huge team effort, you realise how many people are involved in making this happen. I’ve loved how everyone who has come on board is so passionate about the show. That has been a common thread.
Never could I have dreamed that we’d have this cast, it’s surreal. To see the reaction of Russell Watson, Kerry Ellis and Hugh Maynard – to see them responding and getting excited about this show is amazing.
How do you see the message of the story?
Everyone is more familiar with the part where Adam and Eve are cast out. This piece actually follows them through their lives and their journey. When you are entertained, when you’re watching a film or musical, when you feel like you’ve truly been on a journey with a character from start to finish, there is something truly fulfilling about that.
Did you ever have any fear of writing about a topic like this?
Anytime when you do something creative, it’s one thing when it’s close to your heart, but to bring it to other people and wonder what their reaction will be… You feel the weight of a well-known story and making sure it’s done in the correct way. It feels like it needs to be told this way.
What do your kids think of the show?
They sing the songs around the house, they’ve lived in this world with us. It’s very much something we’ve experienced as a family.