It doesn’t necessarily take a miracle to change a person’s life. Sometimes a simple thing will help a person grow and change. Many times those experiences come in ways that are unexpected. For Tooele residents Mike Call and Russ Scribner a change has come about by way of a new musical called Power In His Touch.
For Mike Call, editor of the Tooele Transcript Bulletin, it began several years ago when his sister Colette started writing songs; songs, which eventually led to a musical — now in its final few days of rehearsal.
The production of Power In His Touch will be presented at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center in Salt Lake City during the week leading up to Easter (March 22-26). The musical stars David Osmond, son of Alan Osmond of the legendary Osmond brothers, and other familiar Utah performers including Sterling Brimley, Daniel Beck, Katrina Nelson and Karen Brimley-Larsen.
The musical tells the story of Kendra, a modern-day single mother, who is struggling to overcome a life filled with challenges. At a rehearsal for a Christmas concert, she is overwhelmed by feelings of guilt and regret. When she questions her worthiness to perform, her friend and co-soloist Jason (Osmond) tells her the story of “Sarah,” a woman who lived during the ministry of Jesus Christ.
As the audience is transported back to the dusty streets of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, Kendra learns of Jesus (Beck), his mother Mary (Brimley-Larsen) and disciples Nathaniel (also played by Osmond) and Judas Iscariot (Kelly Griffiths). She also imagines characters such as Tyras (Dan Christensen), a wealthy and arrogant politician who marries Sarah, and Mordecai (Michael Richardson), his duplicitous accountant.
How did Christ’s life affect those around him and what was expected of the prophesied “King of the Jews?” Those questions and others are explored as the story unfolds. And as Sarah and Kendra (both played by Katrina Nelson) learn of the Savior’s message of love and His redeeming sacrifice, their lives are forever transformed, Mike explained. The music in this piece has been described by wellknown Utah composer Kurt Bestor, as “a wonderful tribute to our Savior.”
Bestor added, “The music is incredibly moving and makes me yearn to see the eventual stage presentation.”
While that presentation is now on the horizon, it has been a long road to get the production to this stage.
It’s not surprising the Calls would end up in a musical project of this nature, as music was a big part of their family lives growing up. With six boys and one girl in the family, music was strongly encouraged by their parents throughout their childhoods.
For Colette, Mike said, “It caught on big time.
Especially with the piano.” Colette eventually earned her master’s of music degree from the University of Utah and makes her living as a music teacher and performer. Her opening song in the musical, “Good Tidings,” won a 2002 Pearl Award for Holiday Recording of the Year.
Mike’s focus on music gravitated toward singing as he was a member of the Skyline High School Madrigals, the Mormon Youth Chorus during college as well as the A Cappella Choir at the University of Utah. Theater also played a role in his life starting as early as grade school. “I got interested in theater from a really young age,” said Mike. “In sixth grade I was in Oliver.”
Eventually his love for music and theater gave way to a career in journalism. “I stopped doing musical theater about the time I started writing for newspapers,” said Mike.
Mike found himself working in Provo when he was recruited by the former Tooele Transcript Bulletin Publisher Joel Dunn. That was over nine years ago and there hasn’t been a lot of time since for being involved in big productions. It wasn’t until his sister started talking to him about her ideas for Power In His Touch that Mike returned to his earlier roots of theater and music.
“We got to the point after she finished the CD (Power In His Touch), that we started working together on a story and some additional songs to go with the music.”
Near the end of 2003, BYU-Hawaii officials who had heard the CD invited Colette to come and present her music at one of their annual events. Mike went along to help out and the siblings spent four fast-paced days working with the Hawaiian cast, modifying and adapting the story they had thus far to fit into a onehour program. In the end, the Hawaiian audience responded enthusiatically to the program, which was also broadcast via radio throughout the islands. After returning to the mainland in December of 2003, things started to get really busy.
“We came home and that January was when we hit it really hard in getting this thing written,” said Mike. The memory of this time sticks out in his mind, specifically because his cell phone bill for that month was over $700 — the majority of the calls being to or from his sister Colette who lives in Sandy.
Between January and July a flurry of activity result ed in a script and several additional songs. But Mike downplays his involvement, giving most of the credit to his sister.
“She did the bulk of the writing. I was there more as a consultant … sort of a muse,” he said. “I would write suggestions for songs, she would write and I would edit. I was just there for her to bounce ideas off.”
One night the two went up to their family’s cabin in Oakley to get away from the distraction of phones, televisions and e-mails.
They worked into the early morning hours finally coming up with the basic concept and theme for one of the lead songs in the production: “A Better World.”
By July, a staged reading of the musical was presented at the Salt Lake City Library. Mike played the father of the lead character in that presentation. “The main purpose of the staged reading was to see if there was enough interest for a full staged program and to make changes where they were needed,” Mike explained. “The response from the audience to the staged reading was overwhelmingly positive.” But while the staged reading was so highly received, Colette and Mike decided a break from the musical was in order.
“We were kind of burned out and wanted to let the musical sit for a while,” said Mike. However, their father Dr. John Reed Call, a former superintendent for the Granite School District, wasn’t about to let things cool off.
“At that point, my dad took the project under his wing and worked on getting the full stage version going,” Mike said.
Taking the role of fundraiser and producer, Reed was able to find contributors to support the costs involved in getting the musical onto the stage.
“You need a lot of money to put on a theatrical play,” Mike noted. Despite this obstacle, their father was able to raise enough money to allow for the proceeds of the ticket sales to go to charity. Several different charities will benefit including The Make A Wish Foundation and The United Way of Salt Lake — both of which service the Tooele area.
Although the musical was relatively unknown, finding exceptional talent didn’t seem to be a problem. Osmond recorded on the original CD, saw the staged reading and was happy to step into the dual role when Colette approached him. Other talent soon followed and now the 40-person cast is in their final preparations before next Tuesday’s opening. Besides helping his sister with the conceptualization of the play and being a member of the ensemble cast, Mike has also produced the flyers, posters and program for Power In His Touch.
“The Transcript-Bulletin has been very generous in helping produce some high-quality flyers and programs,” Call said.
Besides pulling a lot of people together for the cause, being in the production has had an impact on Mike in a number of ways.
“It’s been a positive experience,” said Mike. “It has brought my sister and I very close together. It has brought my family closer together; even though it has been stressful at times.”
Being in the production has also had in impact on his work, “It’s taught me to be a little more optimistic and less cynical,” he added. “Newspaper people tend to be more cynical and being in the musical has mellowed me out a bit.”
But Mike also commented that once the production is over “I never want to talk to my sister again.” Then he laughed and added. “No, I’m only kidding … her amazing music is really what makes this thing so incredible and moving. I hope as many people as possible will have the opportunity to hear it for themselves.”
What’s next for the Calls? Not another musical in the foreseeable future, but the two are planning to take a trip with their father to England, Wales and Scotland where they will attend a brother’s wedding. Good fodder for another story? Perhaps, Mike smiles.
Russ Scribner’s part
Becoming involved in Power Of His Touch production took a little finagling on the part of his wife Kari.
“My wife went and saw the staged reading and was really impressed with the music,” said Russ. “When she heard from Mike Call about the tryouts, she suggested I give it a shot.”
Russ had performed with Mike Call for A Soldiers’ Field in Tooele last summer. “We sang the Star Spangled Banner, as part of a quintet, at the opening ceremony” said Russ.
Going to the tryouts in January was a bit outside his comfort zone, said Russ. “It made me kind of nervous because I hadn’t done it for a long time and I knew that the other performers were high caliber talent.”
The director, Tracy Ann Evans (whose grandfather, Donald McIntosh, was born and raised in Tooele) turned out to be very nice said Russ, which made it easier to get through it.
“It’s never as hard as you think it’s going to be,” he added. Once he was accepted as one of the ensemble, the challenge was fitting rehearsals into his work and family life.
As the owner of Data-Tx Consulting (a custom software development company in Tooele), Russ had to juggle things around to make it possible to be a part of the large musical production.
“This has been a busy time for our business, it has been especially challenging to work things out this last week, now that we’re having rehearsals almost daily.”
A love for music, which started as a child, has kept him going. Russ’ parents, made sure each of their eight kids had the opportunity to take piano lessons. Through this, Russ — the oldest of the eight — developed a strong background in reading music. As he got older, he learned to play other instruments and to sing as well.
“My mother produced several church musical productions and I always found myself involved in some way,” said Russ. “I’ll always remember my father singing in some of my mother’s productions, such as The Music Man and Fiddler on the Roof.”
Wanting to pass that love of music on to his own children, Russ’ boys, Ben, Danny and Jacob are also taking piano lessons from a local piano and voice instructor, Gina Morrison.
“Like father like son,” said Russ.
“Since I’ve been involved in this production, some of them have expressed an interest in singing as well.”
Although he received a minor in music from Brigham Young University (along with his bachelor’s in Spanish), he hasn’t had a lot of opportunity to make use of the minor until recently.
“I married my sweetheart and we moved to the Washington, D.C. area, where I received my Master’s Degree in International Affairs,” he said. Then came kids and the task of raising an active family.
The opportunity to be in this production has been a big change, but a positive one for the business owner. “It has been a wonderful experience for me to be associated with so many talented performers,” said Russ. “Tracy is a great director and has really managed to unite the cast with the spirit of this play. The music and script developed by Colette have brought me to a greater understanding of the Savior and His mission.”
As part of the ensemble, Russ has several parts he is playing. “I get to wear a lot of hats,” he said. “I start out as a member of the choir, then play a Roman soldier, a Jewish Zealot, a member of the Sanhedrin, and a Disciple of Jesus.”
Of all the characters he plays, the part of Jesus’ Disciple has had the biggest impact on Russ. “I have found that as I have pretended to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and have tried to understand how to act out the part, that my real life relationship with the Savior has deepened, which is something I didn’t anticipate.”
Although Russ noted that the time he has spent away from his family has, by far, been the most difficult part of being in the production, he stated, “I’m jealous of the time I spend with my family, but I feel the benefit the people in the audience will receive from this production is worth the sacrifice.” After Power In His Touch has ended, Russ will still be involved in music as he stated, “I have just recently been asked to direct the musical program for our church congregation.”
Whether involvement in any future performances is possible, he said, “I consider myself lucky to have been involved in this production, but I will have to think hard about spending so much time away from my family before I involve myself in such a big production again.”
Power In His Touch is a nondenominational musical and as Russ stated, “Anyone of Christian faith or who are familiar with the stories of Jesus in the Bible will identify with the themes of this play. It is not geared toward any specific denomination, rather it exemplifies the universal themes of love, trial and forgiveness.”
Those interested in seeing Power In His Touch can obtain tickets by going on-line to www. ArtTix.org, calling 1-888-451-ARTS (2787) or directly from the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center Ticket Offices or at select ArtTix outlets.