Trail of Dreams
Original cast recording. CD booklet includes 22 pictures from the original production. **1999 Pearl Award Winner-Best Soundtrack** • • • • • ACT I John Brown is having a dream. He is arranging books all in a row-old pioneer journals, lives over which, for many, he was captain on the Mormon Trail. He has had this dream before, but this time there is a mysterious woman, "A friend," who picks up his book, drawing out his dreams and sorrows-the loss of his infant son and his passion for getting his people to the valley alive. Pioneers, representing the 70,000 who crossed the plains, emerge over the horizon and take up the books, the lives they will play, weaving from John Brown's memories of the 22 year exodus a tapestry of their dreams and lives, now united across time into one company. The Grants, Jedediah and Caroline, and their daughter Caddie and baby Margaret seek deliverance from persecuting mobs into a haven for their family in the Rocky Mountains. Elsie Nielson dreams of fulfillment for her husband, Jens, who left Denmark as a farmer and has come to America to be a shepherd of souls, a father to many more than their one little son and foster daughter Bodil. Robert Pearce, a refugee from the factories of England, defies the protective Captain Brown and his own hopelessly crippled body by promising to walk every step of the way to Zion, to reach his dream of being healed by the prophet. Death is a frequent traveling companion along the deep-mud roads of Iowa, but John Brown is encouraged by the mysterious woman, Angela Hopewell, apparently a midwife, clearly a comforter. She is present at births, at the blanket-sides of the sick, at the accidental shooting of a young boy. While John wishes for the guiding and guarding angels promised by prophets, Angela hovers in urgent concern, but the sufferers she attends do not survive. Pearce lags further behind each day and is saved by John Brown from hungry wolves, but John is puzzled and alarmed to find Angela there also, as if she were simply awaiting the outcome of the attack. At the campfire that evening, Pearce's relieved friends merrily compete in song, telling their own fanciful stories of escaping Old Man Death. John realizes that their nemesis is not a fearsome Old Man at all. He has met his hoped-for angel, and she is the Angel of Death. John orders Pearce to ride, but he is once again walking only days after his rescue from the wolves. Struggling on in the passion of his dream to take wing from his sufferings, he casts aside his crutch, takes a few faltering steps unaided, and falls. It is Angela who raises him to his full stature and dances him away into another life. With rations failing, John regroups the company-determined that no more will fall to Angela. But many stumble under privation and sorrow, and Caroline Grant's baby falls ill with cholera. Angela cannot accept John's offer to sacrifice his own life in trade for the safety of the pioneers, so he rides ahead to the valley for help, leaving them to face the first falling snow in the Wyoming highlands. ACT II John and the rescuers are interrupted in their return trip by the burial of Margaret Grant, but John must break through the complaints and worries of 1847, '53, and '59 to reach the desperate handcart pioneers in '56. They are in a hopeless stupor of starvation and cold, and the rescuers impose a forced march of fifteen miles, twenty-seven hours, over Rocky Ridge, the highest point on the entire trail, to get them to a sheltered camp, where Jens and Elsie Nielson bury their son and foster daughter. Jens' feet freeze, and he begs Elsie to leave him in the snow to die, and save her own life. Angela bars John from helping-he watches as Elsie, declaring that "Zion is together, sometimes you are helping others, other times they are helping you," lifts her protesting husband onto the cart and pulls him through the snow, with invisible help from Angela. John thinks he has won a victory, but hears little Caddie Grant call out in alarm at her mother's collapse and his fears rise again. "Will you take all the joy?" he cries, and Angela catches John away to the top of Big Mountain, where, first among the Mormon pioneers, he saw the Salt Lake valley with Orson Pratt in July of 1847. There he is reminded of the joy of the Zion-dream, and witnesses Angela's awe of the fierce unity of the 70,000 who followed that dream into the valley below. He despairs of ever prevailing against his enemy until she reveals that she was beaten long ago. "That's the reason you can call me your friend." John submits to Angela's "rescue" of the suffering Caroline Grant, trusting Angela that "dreams are stronger than death." Caroline whispers into the ear of her broken husband the dream they shared at the beginning of the trail, to be all together in the valley, then Angela dances her off. Jedediah bids farewell to Caddie and turns back to retrieve his tiny Margaret. The company, bearing Caroline's coffin, gather up their gear and march with solemn joy over the last rise. As John Brown is about to crest that rise, Angela invites him to join her in his final dance. And all enter their valley of peace.