The pandemic put the production on temporary hold, but now the green light has been given and 1820 The Musical is now playing at the Covey Center in Provo, Utah. The new contemporary musical, which tells the story of the Restoration through the eyes of Emma Smith, premiered on 6 August 2021, and runs through 11 September 2021. You can get your tickets and learn more about the show by clicking here.
1820 The Musical takes a historical look at the faith, love, and trials experienced by Emma Smith and her husband, Joseph Smith, the first prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. LDS Living proclaims, “Theatergoers can expect a bold journey through powerful song and acrobatic dance surrounding this couple’s faith, love and trial forged in the religious fervor of 19th Century America.”
The musical, which celebrates the bicentennial anniversary of the First Vision, was created by a team with Broadway and Billboard chart success, including the show’s award-winning director and veteran playwright, George D. Nelson.
Nelson, who is the head of the Playwriting program at Brigham Young University (BYU), is the author of the book titled 1820 (formerly titled Tale of a Lunatic? and Emma’s Tale). He was also a fellow at the Eugene O’Neill Playwright’s Conference in 2017 where he penned the first draft of the book. According to LDS Living, his last musical, Single Wide, premiered Off-Broadway in 2015 and was named one of the Top 10 Broadway shows for 2015 by hypable.com.
Nelson told KSL News, “It’s kind of been written as a counter to The Book of Mormon Musical. They make fun of almost everything we believe in and what we’ve tried to do here is say, look these are [the] things that are important to us spiritually.” He continued, “We’ve tried to address in a non-apologetic way, really, the things Joseph has been accused of throughout his life.” In February 2020, he told LDS Living, “The gospel is supposed to be preached to everyone in his or her own tongue, and the language many people speak and respond to is the language of entertainment.”
The music and lyrics were composed by songwriters—Kendra Lowe Holt, Doug Lowe and Kyliann Lowe Juarez—who are siblings. Holt, the musical director for the BYUTV comedy series Show Offs, and the composer for numerous Face to Face events, was the former musical director for David Archuleta and Lexi Walker. Lowe and Juarez are award-winning songwriters, producing music and media for movies, television, and Billboard artists, including Austin French and David Archuleta.
Speaking about the songwriting experience, Holt commented:
Writing these songs was truly a spiritual awakening. It’s a huge undertaking to write about two of the most prominent figures in the history of the Church, and we wanted to do so in a musically jaw-dropping way. We pushed the limits of expected norms and found our energy fueling song after song. We consciously moved away from dated theatrical patterns to create the music, while pulling from journals, historical publications, and other factual accounts to tell the story. With a multi-genre soundtrack of contemporary styles blending Pop, R&B, Soul, and more, 1820 The Musical rivals any current hit on Broadway.
The official soundtrack, which is comprised of 19 songs, is available to download and streamed on Spotify, Apple iTunes, and Amazon Music. The songs can also be listened to on the official website for 1820 The Musical. About the soundtrack, world-renowned entertainer, David Archuleta, has commented, “Fantastic and well-written music!”
1820 The Musical is admired by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as those of other faiths, as “a must-see, thrilling account of two young, inexperienced mortals striving to follow God.” Susan Easton Black, a retired professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, has commented that the musical is “A fresh look at the prophetic role of Joseph Smith.”
George Nelson extends an open invitation for everyone to “Come [and] see Emma and Joseph in a new light. Come appreciate their humanity. Come deepen your understanding of what the Restoration cost them, personally, and collectively.”