The Return Of The Book Of Mormon
Chicagoans have another chance to experience the controversial, musical gem
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AFTER its amazing and spectacular 43-week, sold-out run in Chicago, its nine Tony Awards (including Best Musical) and its multiple-city, record-setting attendance, Chicagoans finally have the opportunity to again experience what America––and other parts of the world––have been talking about since the first curtain went up on what’s been described as “the best musical of this century.”
The Book of Mormon is back!
The national tour of one of the most entertaining and controversial musicals has stopped at the Bank of America Theatre for another run that continues through May 17. It’s expected to generate the same kind of excitement that made it the talk of the town during its long-running engagement in 2013-14. “As an ex-Mormon, I loved this play. I do not suggest Mormons who are still stuck in the church see this as it will probably only offend,” says Autumn Rayne in a social media review. “It was pretty darn accurate, hilarious, well-written and insanely catchy. You'll be singing the songs for weeks!” Another reviewer agrees, saying, “The show is hilarious and jaw-dropping. I knew the premise of the story and the outrageous nature of the South Park creators, but this show exceeded all expectations. If you can set aside personal values, you will laugh until you hurt. If not, you will be offended. A great show!”
The Book of Mormon is an irreverent, unapologetic, explicit, no-holds-barred production with a book and score by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park fame, and Avenue Q’s Robert Lopez. While the idea of making fun of religion makes some observers more than a bit uncomfortable, Parker, Stone and Lopez found a way to make it more than palatable, presenting a uniquely splendid show that’s wild, profane, absurd and thought-provoking at the same time.
The unflinching presentation focuses on two young, wide-eyed Mormon men who excitedly are about to begin their missionary tour of duty. Elder Price, played by David Larsen, is ecstatic about beginning a mission he has been preparing for his entire life, and he can’t wait to make his way in the world and serve Jesus Christ. Elder Cunningham, played by Cody Jamison Strand, is a fumbling, sympathetic figure who hasn’t been good at much of anything in his life and simply wants a friend. When it’s time for their first assignment, to their surprise and disappointment, they are directed to serve in Uganda, a place with overwhelming problems––poverty, AIDS, a brutal, threatening warlord, etc.––problems Price and Cunningham aren’t prepared to handle. Armed only with the word of Christ, the naïve missionaries have to somehow find ways to interact with and cheer up the villagers, who really have no use for the young foreigners. In fact, there’s only one inhabitant who is willing to give them the time of day, the young Nabulungi (the engaging, silky-voiced Candace Quarrels). Other actors highlighted among the cast in the national tour are Daxton Bloomquist (Elder McKinley), James Vincent Meredith (Mafala Hatimbi), Christopher Shyer (Price’s dad/Joseph Smith/mission president) and David Aron Damane (General).
Although sacrilege is central to the show, it doesn’t overwhelm it. The production soars because of its personable, engaging characters, brilliant musical numbers, impeccable choreography, wonderful sets and, of course, the shocking language that produces sustained, roaring laughter. But what can’t go unnoticed is the fact that throughout the play, in the midst of all the mayhem, there are uplifting moments that balance the absurdities. Maybe it’s that delicate balance that resonates so strongly with theatergoers who, without hesitation, describe the production as one that “restores your faith in musicals.”
Simply put, it is a two-hour-and-a -half experience that could be too unconventional for those who are defined by the straight and narrow. But even with all of its outrageousness and flamboyance (or perhaps because of it), The Book of Mormon has taken its place among the most memorable and successful musicals in theater history.
Creative Team: Book, Music & Lyrics: Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone. Choreographer: Casey Nicholaw. Directors: Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker. Set Design: Scott Pask. Costume Design: Ann Roth. Lighting Design: Brian MacDevitt. Sound Design: Brian Ronan. Orchestrations: Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus. Music Direction & Vocal Arrangements: Stephen Oremus. Casting: Carrie Gardner. Dance Arrangements: Glen Kelly. Music Coordinator: Michael Keller.
For more information and tickets, go to www.broadwayinchicago.com.
Cast members of The Book of Mormon gather during a scene in the production that runs through May 17 at the Bank of America Theatre.
Candace Quarrels (Nabulungi) and Cody Jamison Strand (Elder Cunningham) are members of the national tour's cast.