Using dialogue, music and dance to re-create snapshots of Utah's heritage seems like a huge task.
But cast members in the Promised Valley Playhouse production "Unspoken Song" say that's not the hard part. It's getting on stage, wearing the right costume and thinking of the right line - in less than 15 seconds - that can be the monumental job.Carrie Morgan jokes that after six weeks of backstage costume changes as an actress in "Unspoken Song" she has lost weight.
Jason Tatom remarked that after acting in more than 30 productions he has never had to do more or quicker costume changes.
But, they added, it's the nature of a show that portrays a century of creativity, inventiveness, entrepreneurialism, excellence in the arts, educational commitment and deeply held family values by telling a few short stories from different eras in the state's history.
"Unspoken Song" is a musical by Michael McLean, Kurt Bestor, Sam Cardon and David Tinney, written for the state's centennial to celebrate 100 years of Utah spirit. The show, which opened June 22 at Promised Valley Playhouse in downtown Salt Lake City, will play Tuesdays through Saturdays through Sept. 2. Matinee tickets can be purchased two-for-one and all tickets are half price for out-of-state visitors who have a coupon from Temple Square and out-of-state identification.
With every costume change, on the average of about six or seven for everyone in the production, cast members must portray a different character living in a different time period. Hearing the music from those time periods helps them make the change, they said.
"You are going from period to period so quickly," Brother Tatom explained. "Once the show starts the music propels you."
But both Brother Tatom and Sister Morgan said they, or any of the other 15 cast members, could not do it alone. They all have a lot of off-stage help.
Without it, Brother Tatom said, he doesn't think anyone would ever make their cues, which come as close as 10 or 15 seconds apart. "The people rip the clothes off you, help you put others back on, give you a little push and you are out there," he noted.
Even then, the two performers added, the show has not always gone as planned. Cast members have missed cues, put on the wrong costumes for the wrong scene or forgotten their lines. Brother Tatom even missed one scene completely after leaving one of his costumes on the wrong side of the stage. To get to it he had to run down some stairs, through a hallway maze and back upstairs.
"By the time I got down and back up I had missed my cue," he said, explaining that it would have been too distracting to walk on stage after the scene had started. "I sang my part from back stage. There was just an empty spot on stage right where I was supposed to be. I just rolled my eyes and started changing my costume for the next scene."
However, he said he would not trade the experience of acting in the play for anything. Like the audience, who he said is often moved to tears, he has had his share of spiritual experiences with the show.
Brother Tatom said he still sometimes gets teary-eyed when he watches the Marianne Fisher scene, in which an actress portrays the struggles of a blind woman who fulfilled her dream by becoming a member of the Tabernacle Choir.
And both Sister Morgan and Brother Tatom agreed that it makes them feel proud and patriotic to be part of a musical that re-creates some of the smaller events in their state's history - even if it means 15-second costume changes.