A ONE-WOMAN MUSICAL, Vine Street Theater, 184 E. Vine St. (4950 South), Murray. Remaining performances: Sept. 26 at noon, and Oct. 2 & 3 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets: Day Murray Music 266-3537. $5 in advance, $6 at door/$20 immediate family.
We've long sought the definitive version of the Mormon story that has often been told through the lives of such notables as Orrin Porter Rockwell, Eliza R. Snow or Brother Brigham himself. Look no more, the story has been written, and it's being played out on stage at the Vine Street Theater in Murray. But this story is told through the life of an ordinary woman who lived in extraordinary times."Polly" is a musical in two acts based on the remarkable true-life story of a woman named Polly Matilda Merrill Colton and written by her great-great-great-grandson Steven Kapp Perry. (Yes, Janice Kapp Perry and Douglas Colton Perry are his parents.)
What transpires on the boards of the Vine Street Theater is the intertwining of two works of art: the writing of Perry, witty, poignant and deft, and a tour de force performance by his wife, Johanne Frechette Perry.
Steven Perry's powerful music and lyrics are all the more surprising for his youth. Perhaps in perusing the journals, letters and oral histories of his family, the collective wisdom of his pioneer ancestors distilled in the BYU graduate and former BYU Ambassador performer. In taking the life of Polly from teenage years in Shelby, Mich., through her marriage, conversion to the Mormon faith and life in Nauvoo, Ill., to the trek to Utah, Perry combines moments of hilarity in the songs "Milking a Cow" and the great parody "Salt Lake City!" with the tender "Rocking Chair Lullabye" and a powerful song of expulsion from Zion "Thirty Days."
The directing of Mark Huffman moves Johanne Frechette Perry through a minimalist set featuring only a trunk and table and chairs. Huffman showcases Johanne's exquisite performance as Polly through conversations so animated you really believe she is talking with her mother or dancing with Philander Colton, who becomes her husband. The desperation of the exodus from Nauvoo is jarringly exemplified by the abrupt turning over of chairs. The lighting is superb - the flickering candlelight casting shadows during Perry's singing of "Lead Kindly Light" is simply haunting.
But if this show belongs to anyone, it belongs to Johanne Perry. Her portrayal of "Polly" was premiered to standing-room-only audiences during the Women's Conference at BYU in May. She and Polly should be together for a long run.
Perry's voice soars and whispers. She could wring tears from a heart of stone when she sings a goodbye lullabye to the baby who lived just a day. She handles the comic moments with a sure touch - the seagull miracle? "Fetch 'em and retch 'em," she laughs. "Provo wasn't the end of the world," she says wryly when she and Philander are assigned there by Brigham Young, "but you can see it from there!"
LDS women ought to plan on a night out during the Saturday night priesthood session of general conference Oct. 3, and they better plan on making reservations and bringing a handkerchief.
Some of the brick buildings that Philander Colton built are still standing in Provo. How much it would please him to know that the faith and courage of his wife Polly endures as well.