100 years of Utah spirit shared in 'unspoken song'

The stage is set in the late 1960s, and a teenage girl is on her way to Woodstock "to find herself." She stops at a Salt Lake City family history center and, with the help of three older ladies, instead finds her real self in history.

This scene, part of the Promised Valley Theater musical production "Unspoken Song - A Celebration of 100 Years of Utah Spirit," is one of several factual-based stories about Utahns who made a difference in their own lives and the lives of the people who came after them.The production jumps through time, helping the audience find a part of themselves in Utah history.

The musical, which will run from June 20 through Aug. 31 and was written for the 1996 centennial celebration, was created last year by prominent LDS writer/composer Michael McLean and director David Tinney. It features original music by Emmy Award-winning composers Kurt Bestor and Sam Cardon.

Brother Tinney said the group wanted to celebrate the small achievements of Utahns that may have gone unnoticed in history. Every scene in the production is a separate story that deals with individuals and their contributions to the state.

The play celebrates the Utah Symphony, the Shakespearean Festival, cultural diversity and the contributions made by teachers and military servicemen.

But, Brother Tinney emphasized, the show is not just about Utah.

"What we are trying to say is that Utah is great because of the people that made it great," Brother Tinney said. "Utah is a place like any other place, but what makes it great is the commitment people have to make it great."

He said visitors from outside of the state will be able to enjoy the production and take a little bit of Utah spirit home with them.

During the last year, Brother McLean and Brother Tinney revised the play which was performed for the first time last summer at the playhouse. They added a new character and a new scene.

Brother Tinney said everyone involved in the creation of the production feels like the Lord directed and inspired their work.


The call to write the musicalT came at a really difficult time; all four of us were extremely busy," he said. "It is really kind of a miracle. It just happened that the windows opened up and we decided to do it. When the Lord calls you, He opens the doors for you to do it."

Cast members say they hope that audience members will leave the play with a good feeling. "[It features] so much diversity and so many personalities with some connection to Utah. You will leave a little better than when you came," said Kim Butterworth, who plays Juliet in a scene that creates an upbeat squaredance version of Shakespeare's classic.

Last year Brother Tinney watched the performance from the audience on several occasions.

He said he doesn't judge the show by the applause the audience gives at the end. He said he just hopes the production moves audiences and influences "the way they treat other people, the way they raise their children or the tolerance they have of other people."

"It is nice when they applaud, but it doesn't mean as much to me as receiving a letter a few weeks later saying, `This major thing has happened to me because of this show.' "

Evening performances of "Celebrating Utah - Our Unspoken Song" will run Tuesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Matinees will be performed Aug. 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31 at 2 p.m. For more information call (801) 364-5696.

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