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Saturday’s Warrior Revived: Production a Part of Temple Open House

July 5, 2008

By Ariel Hansen, The Times-News, Twin Falls, Idaho

Jul. 5–For two generations of Mormons, a favorite family entertainment has come with a question:What ever happened to Jimmy Flinders?

The leading character of “Saturday’s Warrior,” which organizers bill as the most successful LDS musical of all time, is back.

Doug Stewart, who wrote both the original show and its 35th anniversary sequel about Jimmy as an adult, “The White Star,” says they are great fun for families of any faith.

“When we created the show this was not to be a heavy-handed religious expose on Mormon belief or anything. It was letting our hair down, laughing at ourselves, and focusing on the family,” Stewart said from his St. George, Utah, home.

The Twin Falls temple open house starts Friday, and Stewart hopes that both visiting members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and non-Mormons interested in learning more about Mormon culture will come to the show, which plays at the College of Southern Idaho on July 18 and 19.

“We thought that’s perfect timing,” Stewart said. “Come and experience something new, if you want to be entertained and maybe learn a little bit about another culture, much as (you) would during ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’”

Due to the temple opening, Mormons’ minds will be turned more than usual to thoughts of the spiritual, he said, making the show extra appealing.

“The temple has a lot to do with the afterlife. We don’t hit people over the head, but the concepts are there. The message is universal; they’ll laugh, they’ll cry.”

The first show, “Saturday’s Warrior,” is focused on LDS teachings about the pre-life: what happens before people are born on earth. For example, the character Pam, Jimmy’s twin sister, promises to maintain her bond to Jimmy before, during and after their earthly existence.

Before coming to earth, Pam had hoped to be a dancer, said actress Carrie Colton, who plays Pam, but a congenital and lethal condition put the character in a wheelchair.

“One of my favorite lines in the whole play is, ‘We all have crutches, some people just can’t see theirs.’ Hers just happens to be a wheelchair,” said Colton, by telephone from Cedar City, Utah. “One of my favorite moments is when Pam dies, she steps out of her wheelchair. We had a couple performances where a couple of women in the front row were actually handicapped, and when Pam died and she stepped out of her wheelchair, both of those women just broke down.”

Though the show has moments of pathos, it’s also pretty funny, said Andrew Lewis, who plays Elder Kestler in “Saturday’s Warrior” and narrates “The White Star.”

“Pay attention in the second act, because there’s a lot of discoveries that take place,” Kestler said. “We get to hear from one of the ancestors of Jimmy, and it’s a very funny song.”

Kestler’s first role in the production mirrors his missionary experience, and his second, in which his character is a Southerner converted to Mormonism, mirrors his own teen decision.

“He was kind of a Southern Holy Roller who converted to the LDS church,” said Kestler from Syracuse, Utah. “I am a convert to the church myself, so it’s kind of fun to play someone who has joined the church later in life. He’s kind of a caricature of that overzealous person.”

The second show rattled around in Stewart’s head for the past two decades, the playwright said, before the time seemed ripe to write the sequel.

“When a story is right, it just kind of flows, the characters create it,” he said. “The angle in the second show is the hereafter, whereas the angle in the first show was the preexistence, so it’s kind of bookends.”

Stewart pulled in Janice Kapp Perry, a well-known LDS songwriter, to compose the music for the sequel. He shortened the original version of “Saturday’s Warrior” so it would fit in the same evening with “The White Star” and cast in the lead role Casey Elliott, a film actor who recently ended a touring production of Disney’s “Aida.”

The original “Warrior,” made into a movie version in 1989, has been seen by more than 2 million people, Stewart said, about 70 percent of whom are LDS. The new show is in its inaugural season, with just 13 performances complete before the curtains open in Twin Falls.

“I grew up with ‘Saturday’s Warrior’ the movie, but what really led me to want to do this show is the way it affects people,” Colton said. “It’s not that kind of show that just entertains, though it does have some very funny moments and great laughs. There’s been several people who have come twice, because it touched them and the wonderful feelings they’ve had because of it.”

Ariel Hansen may be reached at 208-735-3376 or ariel.hansen@lee.net.

Left:in ‘The White Star,’ fans of ‘Saturday’s Warrior’ will find out what happened to Jimmy. Here, Jimmy’s son Matt, played by Taylor Eliason, is flanked by two of his ancestors, played by Jeff Long, left, and David Weekes.

See the shows

What: A joint production of “Saturday’s Warrior” and its 35th anniversary companion musical, “The White Star.”

Where:The College of SouthernIdaho’s Fine Arts auditorium.

When: 7:30 p.m. July 18-19.

Cost:Tickets range from $12 to $19 and are available at ldsmusical.com or (888) 35-YEARS.

Information: ldsmusical.com.

Temple opens

next week

The Twin Falls temple open house will run Friday through Aug. 16, and advance tickets for the free tours are required. Reserve online at lds.org/reservations or call 866-537-8457. For more temple information — including photos, videos, archived stories and comments from readers — visit the Times-News’ Temple Track site at Magicvalley.com.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Times-News, Twin Falls, Idaho

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