Musical marking Mormon trek is back - East Valley Tribune: Spirituallife

Musical marking Mormon trek is back

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Posted: Saturday, May 20, 2006 7:36 am | Updated: 4:41 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

“1856! The Musical,” an original musical created by East Valley natives about the trek of Mormon converts across the Great Plains, has been revived for eight performances in late June in the Ikeda Theater at Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St. It premiered last summer at Mountain View High School.

The musical will be presented to mark the 150th anniversary of the handcart pioneers’ arduous walk from Iowa City, Iowa, to the Salt Lake Valley of Utah, a 1,300-mile journey. Last year, about 4,000 people turned out for five shows.

“The 2005 premiere was a success,” said Cory Ellsworth, who wrote and produced the musical, noting that he wants to build on that response. “We are excited to contribute to the celebration of the handcart legacy and to honor those pioneers who faithfully sacrificed so much.”

Nearly 3,000 Mormons, many of them immigrants from England, chose to make the trip pulling handcarts, which were a less costly mode than the traditional oxenpulled wagons. The musical tells how the Ellsworth, Mac-Arthur and Bunker handcart companies made the trip that summer in relative safety, but two companies that started out later in the season — the Willie and Martin companies — encountered great difficulties, including being caught in high mountain snowstorms, with 250 deaths recorded.

“The musical tells the story of these faithful pioneers, as well as the story of the brave rescue party sent by Brigham Young,” said Ellsworth, who collaborated with Mildred West Wiseman Packard, Randy Kartchner and Taywna Gray to get it to the stage. A cast of 140 includes Joseph Paur, who starred in the film “Rigoletto,” and Kristin Adams is choreographer.

Shows will be 7 p.m. June 23, 24 and 26-30 and 2 p.m. June 24. Tickets are $6 to $19 and can be obtained by calling the arts center ticket office, (480) 644-6500, or visiting

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