On a Saturday in late April, Jonathan Mace traveled 120 miles from Lichfield, a district in Staffordshire, England, to London to meet up with fellow choreographer Amy Robinson to discuss business — the task of choreographing hundreds of dancers in a folk dance symbolizing the United Kingdom welcoming apostles onto British soil.
It's a project that's unprecedented for Saints in the British Isles.
Starting July 31, hundreds of English Saints will bring to life stories of the restoration of the gospel from England as they kick off a new pageant by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "Truth Will Prevail."
Each night for two weeks, a cast of nearly 200 will fill the stage erected on the grounds adjacent to the Preston England Temple, performing for upwards of 1,500 people a night.
While the field is normally used by missionaries to play soccer, for the duration of the pageant it will light up each night to tell the story of the United Kingdom's religious legacy.
"It begins with William Tyndale and John Wycliffe," said James Holt, communications director for the pageant. "There is a rich heritage of religious reform in the U.K., and the pageant gives background to the reformation that laid the grounds for religious freedom."
Holt said the crux of the pageant takes place in 1837 when the first missionaries, including Heber C. Kimball, arrived in England.
"The central theme is about the Restoration," Holt said.
The pageant features a fictional family that is affected by the coming of the LDS missionaries, weaving their journey together with the lives of real men and women who played key roles in church history, specifically George Q. Cannon, John and Jane Holmes Benbow, and Alexander Baird.
It's thanks to the efforts of area seventy and pageant president Elder Stephen Kerr that the story of the U.K.'s religious legacy will come to life through music, dance and storytelling.
"It was (Elder Kerr's) brainchild," Holt said.
This pageant is the first of its kind in Europe.
After receiving approval from the First Presidency, the vision started to become a reality during the first auditions for the core cast in January.
"(We) started with core cast auditions back in January, which led to callbacks and finally casting," said Mace, assistant director and assistant choreographer for the pageant. "Our next gathering was a workshop to which family cast, choir and core cast were invited in April. It was a joyous occasion!"
The core cast met once more in June, and on July 19, the entire cast gathered in Preston, England, for three weeks of intensive rehearsals before their July 31 opening.
"The main rehearsal period has involved rehearsing from 8 a.m. until 9 or 10 p.m.," Mace said. "We've spent long hours working on principles of the gospel that apply to our portrayal of these characters in order that the story might feel believable and that the spirit is carried to our audience."
The U.K. event is the first of the church pageants to feature a choir as part of the pageant.
"Britain has a great tradition of music, especially choirs, and so we are the first pageant to have a choir singing also to really help the spirit of the pageant," said music director Beth Treblicock in a video on the pageant website.
But the dancing, the music and the pageantry as a whole is a catalyst for a deeper message — one of sacrifices throughout the ages.
The plot tells the story of sacrifices made by early Saints who received the message of the restored gospel.
"These people, because of their love of the Savior and their faith, sacrificed," Holt said.
And it's not just about historical figures, Holt said. The faith of Saints in the past serves as an example for Saints today. Though the pageant tells the story of the past, messages of sacrifices made today are implicitly told as well — including the sacrifice of cast members.
"The cast just arrived here for the next three weeks at their own expense. They have been very busy. The message is not just about 200 years ago, it's about the sacrifice people make today."
In the end, whether it's the cast members themselves or the stories they embody, Holt said audience members can learn from their examples.
"Truth Will Prevail" is a free-ticketed event. Tickets for the pageant are available online.
Prior to each performance, games, dancing, crafts and children's competitions will be held at 7 p.m.
The pageant runs July 31, Aug. 1-3 and 6-10 next to the Preston England Temple grounds. It will begin at 8:30 p.m.
Emmilie Buchanan is an intern for the Deseret News with Mormon Times. She recently graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho. Contact her by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: emmiliebuchanan
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