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Utah County Director Writing & Directing Musical About Joseph Smith

George Nelson, head of BYU's playwriting program and a professor in the school's Theater and Media Arts Department. (KSL TV)

PROVO, Utah — An award-winning director in Utah County has taken on the challenging task of writing and directing a Broadway-quality musical about Joseph Smith, prophet and founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his wife Emma. One he said was written in some ways as a counter to “The Book of Mormon” musical that hit Broadway 10 years ago.

“’The Book of Mormon’ musical presents us as tongue and cheek they laugh at us they make fun of almost everything we believe in,” said 66-year-old George Nelson, who is the head of Brigham Young University’s playwriting program and a professor in the school’s Theater and Media Arts Department.

The privately produced play is called “1820: The Musical,” which will open on Aug. 6 at the Covey Center for The Arts in downtown Provo.

“It’s the story of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ told through the love story of Joseph and Emma,” Nelson told KSL’s Dan Rascon during rehearsals in American Fork. “I want (the audience) to look at Joseph Smith and go, ‘Who is this guy?’ People called him a lunatic they called him a charlatan, they called him all kinds of things … We’ve tried to address in a non-apologetic way the things that Joseph has been accused of throughout his life and put the truth out there.”

George Nelson, head of BYU’s playwriting program and a professor in the school’s Theater and Media Arts Department. (KSL TV)

Zack Wilson, who plays Joseph Smith, said it’s really opened his eyes to what Joseph and Emma Smith went through.

“We see some of the weaknesses some of their strengths and struggles they went through,” he said.

That’s why Nelson wants to take the play to a much bigger audience. “I have a (Broadway) producer that is very interested in it. They are watching out this run, how it will go in Utah County,” he said.

Nelson is even taking on sensitive topics, like polygamy.

“Many people say, ‘Well, you can’t really deal with Joseph Smith and Emma without looking at plural marriage and the effect it had on their relationship.’ We don’t back away from that. We have a very poignant scene,” he said.

Tickets are now on sale here.

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