By Ashley Ramsey
Deseret – The Musical is the latest and newest musical to hit the stage at Provo’s Covey Center for the Arts. Playwright Carl Bell brings to life the stories of frontier families after settling in the Salt Lake Valley. Bell by profession practiced Family Medicine with obstetrics and is a father of ten who only “dabbled in playwriting”, but now semi-retired hopes to devote more time to his passion.
Deseret’s main story follows Allyson (Summerisa Bell Stevens), a young lady of 20 who is almost engaged to the town catch, Jacob (Spencer Stevens). Allyson and Jacob, who have grown up in the small town together decide to announce their proper engagement at the town social. That same day the train comes bringing old friends, the Adams Family, back to town. Handsome and brooding, Daniel Adams (James Bounous) quickly attracts the attention of the young ladies of the town, while Daniel only has eyes for Allyson. Allyson is then faced with the decision of whether her heart lies in the safety and comfort she has always known or in the far off and exciting places Daniel promises. This dual romance is buoyed by many other small storylines which provide us with knock out performances by supporting characters Niner (Peter Layland) and Hilda (Shandra Harper).
The talent in this cast blows the roof off the theatre. Summerisa’s Allyson is charming and believable. She does a superb job at handling the chemistry with both of her love interests, creating a real tension as to who she will pick. Both Spencer and James do a lovely job in creating two exciting and lovable characters that any girl would be lucky to have. Also the exceptional vocal quality of these three deserves special recognition. Rex Kocherhan’s interpretation of Papa was beautiful to watch as he figured out dealing with two young adult daughters on the frontier. His beautiful and powerful voice was a highlight of the show. You will also get to see a fantastic children’s ensembles. I challenge you to not want to adopt little John Perkey by the end of the show. Crowd favorites, Hilda and Niner were absolute knockouts due to Peter and Shandra’s hard work and dedication to their characters. Every time they came on stage, they raised the excitement and energy and brought the crowd back into the story. Fingers crossed for a Hilda and Niner sequel.
La Beene’s costume design lends wonderfully to the overall feel of the production. The natural colors with splashes of brightness tied in wonderfully with the set and Michael Gray’s lighting design. There are many fun dance numbers in which the prairie skirts fill the stage with a kaleidoscope of color.
Deseret does struggle in a few areas. There were some sound issues that made it hard to hear and the music track was oftentimes far too loud to hear the singing. While Daniel Whiting’s set design is absolutely beautiful, the show involves many elaborate set changes involving large set pieces which are mostly done during blackouts. They tended to be long and extremely noisy. Director Kymberly Mellen helped relieved the wait on some of the blackouts with keeping conversations going or silhouetted movements. The biggest struggle the show faces is the script itself. It is quite long (nearly 3 hours) and there are oftentimes so many storylines happening it is easy to get lost. Throughout the show, there were so many high stake things happening, I wasn’t sure which one I was supposed to be emotionally investing in. The writing at times was also a little bit cheesy and predictable.
Overall, Kymberly and her cast have done a great job with this production. It is very rare that show comes along you can take the whole family to. So load up the handcart (or mini-van) and head down to a great evening of uplifting and fun entertainment.
Covey Center for the Arts
425 West Center St., Provo, UT 84601 801.852.7007
7:30 p.m.; $15, $22
September 5-7, 9, 12- 14, 16, 19-21
2:00 p.m. matinee September 14th and 21st