PROVO — Don’t panic because the playwright is actually a physician or because this musical has never before graced the stage. Instead, grab this opportunity to be one of the first to see this infectious play — doctor’s orders!
“Deseret — The Musical” has made its way to the Covey Center for the Arts after more than 30 years of work by American Fork author Carl Bell.
“It’s about recognizing and appreciating what you have and what you can fully love without always dreaming about what you’re missing,” Bell said.
Allyson, a 21-year-old character in a small Utah community, has big dreams to see the world but no way to fulfill them. When the Golden Spike is finally finished and an attractive young man rolls into town, Allyson’s dreams start to feel realistic. She can finally leave her community, which prays tirelessly for relief from their drought without any reprieve. All at once, Allyson is faced with the choice of staying put or leaving her almost-fiance and a town she loves in order to see the world.
“She is someone everyone can relate to a lot, because we all come to crossroads in our lives where we’re faced with choices between good things — but which one is the best in the long term for us,” said Summerisa Stevens, one of the actresses who plays Allyson.
The strong characters are relatable for anyone who has grown up in Utah, lived in Utah at some point or has had a Utah acquaintance. Even though the setting is back when the Golden Spike brought the railroads through Utah, “Deseret — The Musical” showcases character traits and quirks found in Utahns today.
“It’s a universal theme of how beautiful this area is and a celebration of the spirit of Utah’s people and outdoors,” said Spencer Stevens, who plays Jacob, one of Allyson’s love interests.
Not only does the story take a serious turn with Allyson, but shockingly humorous characters will have your head turning and your ears perked. Niner (a non-religious man who just rolled in on the first train to Utah) along with Deseret-territory resident Hilda provide charming, clean humor the whole family will enjoy. One of the highlights of the show is their duet, “Oh, What’s a Single Gal To Do?”
“They (Niner and Hilda) almost steal the show,” Bell said. “I realized as I wrote them in that I was doing something a little bit risky for the main characters. When Peter Layland and Sandra Harper sing, the rest of the cast stops and watches. They’re that good.”
The acting is very natural throughout the play because there are so many actors from the same families, including the 11 children cast in the play.
“There are already so many relationships that you don’t have to coach out of them because they are already there,” said Director Kymberly Mellen.
Beautiful ballads, upbeat knee-slappering songs and wholesome entertainment will have you leaving the play feeling uplifted and bettered as a person.
“It’s really hard to find entertainment for today that is uplifting,” said Summerisa Stevens, Bell’s daughter. “I think that’s what’s most edifying about this show is there’s nothing you have to worry about with your kids or yourself. It is very comfortable to watch as you go along the journey with these characters. It is an uplifting, funny and heartfelt piece, so it is a nice balance of humor but also something you take home and think, ‘Wow, how can I relate that in my own life? How can I ground myself more as a person?’”
“Deseret — The Musical” is performed at the Covey Center for the Arts on Mondays at 7:30 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. through Sept. 23rd. There will be two matinee performances on Saturday, Sept. 14 and Saturday, Sept. 21. Tickets are $15-$22, but you can get a $3 discount by specifying an actor in the musical you want to support. In addition, the actor you mention will get $2 as a courtesy from Bell.
See other articles on stage productions and things to do in Utah Valley here.