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A new pageant comes to Nauvoo

Daytime vignettes, parade 'pre-show' to augment evening presentation

Only a year after the discontinuance of the "City of Joseph" musical pageant in Nauvoo, its replacement will premiere July 8, with a run extending through Aug. 8, with what organizers promise to be a considerably broadened scope.

Core cast of new pageant being staged this summer in Nauvoo includes Dallin and Rachel Bayles as Joseph and Emma Smith, center. It will be augmented by "family cast members" of 150 volunteers for each performance in its monthlong run.
Core cast of new pageant being staged this summer in Nauvoo includes Dallin and Rachel Bayles as Joseph and Emma Smith, center. It will be augmented by "family cast members" of 150 volunteers for each performance in its monthlong run. Photo: Photo by Craig Dimond, Church Audiovisual Department

"In a general sense, the 'Nauvoo pageant' becomes the Nauvoo pageant experience, something that will go on from sometime in the morning to the conclusion of the pageant performance that evening," said Jack Renhouf, newly called pageant president.

Elder Renhouf who, with his wife, Barbara, has been serving a public affairs mission in Nauvoo, said six or so vignettes will be staged at various locations in historic Nauvoo each day of the pageant by members of the core ensemble acting group that take the lead roles in the new production. For example, the characters of John Taylor and his wife, Lenora, might appear at the John Taylor home and make a presentation to tourists. Or the actor portraying Joseph Smith might preach a sermon in the grove, where the historic King Follett funeral discourse was given.

In early evening, a parade will be staged through town, Elder Renhouf said, with bagpipes, a drum corps and banners "that anyone could join in and be a part of." That will be followed by pre-show activities consisting of various events such as stick-pulling and log-sawing contests, old-fashioned fiddle and banjo playing and square dancing.

"Broadway-quality performers" comprise the core cast, Elder Renhouf said, who will have live speaking parts in the play, which is supplemented by recorded soundtrack. In addition, four "family casts" of 150 volunteers each will appear in the production, each spending from 14 to 17 days of the monthlong run. While one cast appears in the show, a cast-in-training will spend a week staging the pre-show activities, he said.

Brigham Young character speaks with Robert and Becky Laird, a Scottish immigrant couple, in pageant scene.
Brigham Young character speaks with Robert and Becky Laird, a Scottish immigrant couple, in pageant scene. Photo: Photo by Craig Dimond, Church Audiovisual Department

The show itself, simply titled "Nauvoo" has been scripted and is currently in rehearsal involving the core cast members. According to a preliminary copy of the script, the character of Parley P. Pratt will narrate the action, which is told largely from the viewpoint of a Scottish immigrant couple coming to Nauvoo in the 1840s. The husband, Robert Laird, is not a member of the Church in the beginning, but has followed his wife to America. Gradually, as the plot unfolds, the message of the Restoration touches his heart. In addition to Joseph and Emma Smith, characters include several luminaries from the Nauvoo period of Church history, including Eliza R. Snow, Brigham and Mary Ann Young, Heber C. and Vilate Kimball, John and Lenora Taylor.

Also portrayed is King Follett, whose funeral sermon given by the Prophet is depicted later on in the play in a touching scene pertaining to the eternity of the family unit.

Played out on a stage with moving platforms, the musical drama touches on a number of events, including the preaching of the gospel by members of the Twelve in the British Isles, the organization of the Relief Society, the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith and the final expulsion of the saints from their beloved city.

Elder Renhouf said the pageant will be staged west and south of the reconstructed Nauvoo Illinois Temple, in a location that will afford a clear view of the temple throughout the presentation. "At the conclusion of the performance, the temple will be lit up in the brilliant, white majesty that it is," he said.

In a videotaped interview provided by the Church Public Affairs Department, cast member Rachel Bayles, who plays Emma Smith, said the message for her is about "the ideal community" and "the way people come together and use the resources they have to bless each other and lift each other."

Her husband, Dallin, who plays the Prophet Joseph Smith, said, "I want people to remember that Joseph is a great man, that he was a good man, that he was also a man of God, but he knew how to play when the time required it, but also knew how to be serious and when to lead the people."

Throughout its run, "Nauvoo" will be staged every evening except Sunday and Monday. As with all visitor attractions in Historic Nauvoo, admission to the pageant is free of charge.

Ariel, left, Annalise and Abigail Karr portray Elizabeth, Bithiah and Margarette in new "Nauvoo" production.
Ariel, left, Annalise and Abigail Karr portray Elizabeth, Bithiah and Margarette in new "Nauvoo" production. Photo: Photo by Craig Dimond, Church Audiovisual Department

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