Nathan Leach is a young singer and actor from McClendon-Chisholm who is pursuing a career performing on Broadway.
The former Rockwall Heath high school student just returned from spending the past three and a half months acting, singing and dancing on the banks of the Mississippi River, entertaining tourists in a variety of musical performances in historic Nauvoo, Illinois, as a Young Performing Missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon).
Nauvoo was once a mosquito-infected swamp, but after thousands of Mormons were illegally evicted from Missouri they found their way there, drained the swamp and turned Nauvoo into the largest city in Illinois in the 1840s with over 15,000 people. It’s not far from Mark Twain’s boyhood home in Hannibal MO.
The son of Christopher and Lynette Leach, he was one of only 20 young men and women out of the hundreds who applied to be selected to perform in several different shows that recreate history to packed crowds from May 26 to August 11. Quiet for most of the year, the town comes alive with pioneer-themed events all summer, including the historic Nauvoo Pageant In July, depicting the life and times of the Church members who settled and lived in the area from 1839 – 1847. He performed in:
Leach’s mother, Lynette, said those lucky enough to be selected do so at their own expense and consider it a choice experience.
“The Young Performing Missionaries are a group of 18-24 year-old young men and women who welcome the chance to sing, dance and share their feelings about the Church and the area.”
She said the Young Performing Missionaries audition in the fall by DVD. Out of all of the applications, 20 women and 20 men are selected for a call-back audition held in Salt Lake City. There, Nathan and the other candidates spent an entire day singing and dancing as soloists and in small groups, learning small routines and speaking one-on-one with leaders and directors.
“It’s an exhausting day for all but spiritual and fun, too. From the original 40 who were called back, only 10 men and 10 women were selected to go to Nauvoo. We’re very proud of Nathan for being selected.”
Once chosen, she continued, there was literally no preparation or head start on the scripts, music or dance because no parts are given out ahead of time.
“Casting isn’t finalized until the troupe arrives in Nauvoo. Young performers get a first look at the scripts on the bus ride from the St. Louis airport to Nauvoo. Upon arrival the real work begins.”
She said rehearsals last all day long.
“Rehearsals start immediately and last from 8 am until 10 pm. Unlike the white shirts and ties that most people may be familiar with, these missionaries wear clothing and other attire appropriate to the time – the early 1830s – and only wear the traditional white shirts and ties for Sunday worship services.
With a huge smile on his face, Leach told TheRockwallNews.com Aug. 19 that he had a wonderful time performing as a missionary. He said he now plans to continue his education at Westminister College in Salt Lake City UT while working towards a career on Broadway.
For info about visiting Nauvoo, see: www.historicnauvoo.net
By J.J. Smith