For Macy Robison, a music teacher in the public schools of greater Boston, Massachusetts, and Brad Thompson, a music and drama teacher in Turlock, California, the opportunity to co-direct a local production of Savior of the World: His Birth and Resurrection, a sacred musical drama created by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, came as a welcome surprise.
Savior of the World depicts the scriptural account of Jesus Christ’s birth and resurrection and was first presented in November 2000 in the Church’s Conference Center Theater near Temple Square in Salt Lake City. From then until last month, performances were held only in the Conference Center during the Christmas season and some Easter seasons.
Permission to mount local productions of Savior of the World was approved, for the first time, in December 2006.
Robison’s Boston stake (a stake is similar to a diocese) presented the drama in March 2007. Robison participated in 2001-2002 Salt Lake City productions at the Church’s Conference Center, sang on the soundtrack recording of the musical and experienced the personal impact of the production.
Thompson, a former member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, directed a five-stake Easter 2007 production in the San Joaquin Valley of California
“Savior of the World is a powerful way to learn about the Church,” Robison noted. “It’s a helpful way to let our friends and neighbors know what we believe as a Church, but it is also a wonderful vehicle to share the talents of Church members with the community.”
The Boston production, for example, utilized the experience of Walter Dolan, formerly a lighting designer for the Boston Ballet. In addition, 20 musicians who are Church members, many with professional backgrounds in music, gathered to provide an orchestra for the musical.
Thompson worked with a volunteer cast of 100 and a youth choir of 800 voices to stage eight performances of the California production, an event held in the Turlock Community Auditorium.
“It’s been exciting to see it all come together,” Thompson reported. “In a valley filled with religious people, with a church seemingly on every corner, we’ve had an opportunity to change perceptions of who we are as members of The Church or Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We’ve explained, on the stage, that we do believe in Jesus Christ, a message that truly sets the image of the Church.”
Written by a team of seven, the sacred musical drama presents a testimony of Jesus Christ, according to Bonnie Ashby, product manager for the production’s Web site. The musical underscores scriptural accounts in the Savior’s live with original music and well-known hymns. The newly released Web site makes the score, script, orchestral tracks, production notes and audio tracks available to download.
“Making these materials available to local (congregations) means that Church members will have an extraordinary opportunity to share their testimonies of the Savior with their families, their wards and stakes and their communities in an inspiring way,” Ashby continued.
Though the Boston production was well underway when the Web site debuted in December, the materials proved a great resource to cast members, Robison explained.
“It was a great help to the cast have those files available to practice with,” she added.
Nearly 100 people voluntarily participated in the Boston production, staged in four performances (though one was cancelled due to extreme weather conditions). The show, presented with translations in Portuguese, Spanish and American Sign Language, played to audiences of more than 1,500.
Many members of other faiths attended both productions, most at the invitation of Mormon friends and neighbors. Community officials, journalists and business leaders received invitations.
Additional productions of Savior of the World are in rehearsal and will be staged throughout the United States during 2007.