BYU students find pioneer roots in ‘Deseret: The Musical’

BYU student Kyle Harper sings "This is the Place" in Deseret the Musical. Photo by Sarah Hill.
BYU student Kyle Harper sings “This is the Place” in Deseret the Musical. Photo by Sarah Hill.

Finding family roots and developing values that will guide students’ lives is something many college students experience during their time on campus. For the premiere of “Deseret: The Musical”, it has provided some students the unique opportunity to do so with pioneer style.

“Deseret” is the creative child of local doctor Carl Bell. Starting in the 1980’s, Bell has written, revised and labored over “Deseret,” making it the product it is today.

The story centers around Allyson Warnick, a young, ambitious woman looking for adventure. A wrench is thrown into her plans to marry the local farm boy Jacob Stevens when the connecting of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads brings Daniel Adams to town. Daniel is a California boy itching to get back to the city life of San Francisco. Through following Allyson’s decision whether to embrace her roots or explore the world, the audience is introduced to themes of love, belonging and discovering the treasure that is already under one’s nose.

The charming music and endearing characters come to life from the talented cast, which is full of former and current BYU students. Directed by the talented Kymberly Mellen, the cast brings Bell’s creative child to life in a way allowing the audience to consider the trials of pioneers after the trek west.

The opportunity to participate in this premiere has helped several current students realize the value of family and sacrifice while instilling a gratitude for those who came before.

BYU student Peter Layland as the comic relief Niner in Deseret. Photo by Sarah Hill.
BYU student Peter Layland as the comic relief Niner in Deseret. Photo by Sarah Hill.

Alana Moore Smith, a sophomore in the music dance theater program, was able to do the show with her mother and little sister. Her family can trace their roots to Samuel Smith, which helped her gain a new perspective on the trials they faced.

“It was interesting to try and put yourself in their shoes,” she said. “Their physical trials were far beyond anything I’ve had to endure.”

For Kyle Harper, a senior graduating in music education with a choral emphasis, the experience has allowed him to spend time with his wife, Shandra, while learning about the trials of the pioneers in a more personal way.

“Each of us had to have a realization of the struggles they went through and connect them to our own struggles,” he said. “It made it more (easy to relate to).”

“Deseret: The Musical” continues to run through Sept. 23 on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. with Saturday matinees at 2:00 p.m. It will show at the Covey Center for the Arts, and tickets can be bought at the box office or by visiting

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