The swelling from the 30,000 people that saw the Nauvoo Pageant last year to the 50,000 estimated attendance for both the British and Nauvoo Pageants this year is a clear demonstration of the excitement that has swept the United States and Nauvoo in particular this summer. Whilst the Nauvoo Pageant is now in its tenth year and well known, the British Pageant brought a new dynamic to Nauvoo this summer. For a period of 4 weeks the Nauvoo Pageant was performed on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays alternating with the British Pageant being performed on Wednesdays and Fridays. The British Pageant necessitated new set pieces, new staging ideas and a vast amount of new costumes that needed to be created by a small army of volunteers including many that have worked the entire year to be ready for the production.
Whilst there have been British Saints that have previously participated in the Nauvoo Pageant, this year over 20 British Saints were able to participate as part of the cast and team who previously performed in Chorley. Ann Cannon remarks in the British Pageant that, “Whatever you offer to [Christ], He will give back tenfold”. This has certainly been the experience of the British participants in the Pageants this year. Some gave up jobs to participate whilst others that are mothers chose to be parted from their husbands and children for the duration of the rehearsals and performances feeling a strong spiritual impression that they needed to be part of the work.
Darren Hill, a member of the core cast from Blackpool (currently residing in Chicago) stated, “Being involved with the Nauvoo pageant since 2009 I was delighted and intrigued to see how the British pageant would be received. The reaction has been beyond our expectations. The American audience realise that this is their story, many people watching had ancestors that came from the UK and wept to hear the stories of the early saints. It had been a wonderful privilege to be a part of this celebration and with that comes great responsibility to continue to share their stories.'
Rachael Pratt, from Chester, who is also part of the core cast added, “The British Pageant ends with saints on the boat and the Nauvoo pageant starts with new saints arriving. They literally go hand in hand. Many audience members have expressed gratitude for the reformers and for their ancestors that left behind the beautiful isle across the big pond.”
This summer saw two pageants and two cultures coming together, but one Gospel being taught. The two Pageants beautifully teach the message of the restored Gospel and show the process of applying it into our lives from the conversion experiences of the Saints in the British Isles all the way to the building of the temple in Nauvoo. For many American Latter-day Saints, the British Pageant tells of their ancestors who joined the Church in the British Isles and then emigrated from Britain. There was a special resonance with audiences in Nauvoo which engendered a feeling of deep unity between the two nations. Above all, the Pageants allowed members from both countries to testify of the Lord Jesus Christ and invite others to come unto Him. From that perspective, the sacrifices made to participate seemed relatively few.
Other British Cast members involved included [core cast] Lucinda Bishop (Poole), Dillon Pratt (Chester), Ben Hunter (Scotland), Peter Johns (Jersey), Robin Dick (Newbury), Loren & Charly Jones (London)
Family Cast: Nigel & Jen Poulton Family, Talitha, Natalie & Felicity Furbank (Poole), Ben & Rachael Pratt Family (Chester), Mike and Carol Beasley Family (Leicester)
The British Pageant was directed by Alexandra Johns from Jersey with assistance from Jonathan Mace as assistant stage manager/choreographer, (Lichfield).