Guest post by Arye Fohrman
Broadway’s most blasphemous show, Book of Mormon is one of those rare treats that truly lives up to the hype. Both critically acclaimed and a massive box office hit, BOM proves to be an all-round excellent experience at the theater.
With the opening number “Hello”, the show introduces you to the uniquely absurd, gleefully-inappropriate world of Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Best known for the longstanding cartoon TV series, South Park, the writers showcase their trademark style of being both hilarious and offensive: poking fun at everything from religion and race, even lampooning the genre of musicals (look out for some hilarious jabs at The Lion King, amongst others). Stone and Parker, who wrote the book, music and lyrics, are joined by Robert Lopez. Lopez is also famous for another Tony Award-winning show Avenue Q (often dubbed as a raunchy version of Sesame Street). The three of them round up to a perfect musical team!
The show follows the unlikely pairing of two fresh-faced Mormon Missionaries: Elder Price and Elder Cunningham. Price, uptight and conceited, dreams of being sent to Orlando, Florida; while Cunningham, kindhearted but a misfit, just dreams of making a new best friend. Much to the chagrin of Price, the two are paired (“Two by Two”) and sent to a rural village in Uganda. From the onset, they are met with adversity. Threatened upon arrival, their luggage is stolen by a genocidal warlord whose name I can’t even print. It all goes downhill from there.
I had the wonderful opportunity to see this show for a third time, and I was particularly impressed with how it has remained fresh, energetic, and sharp after almost 4 years on Broadway. Gavin Creel, who currently plays Elder Price (and won the Laurence Oliver for originating the role on the West End), inhabits the role perfectly. Although 38 years old, Creel is believable as a 19 year old missionary. He is a joy to watch with his spot-on humor, physicality and his pitch perfect voice. His vocal ability and acting chops are perfectly displayed in one of my favorites from the show-“I Believe”. His equally impressive counterpart, Christopher John O’Neill, is similarly fun to watch. He brings enormous charm to the character Elder Cunningham, who comes off as likable and funny despite being a misfit with a penchant for lying. You can’t help but love him by the end of the show.
Nikki Renée Daniels (Nabalungi), the kind and naïve villager brings needed warmth to the show. Her humorous yet heartfelt “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” touches on her desire to leave the terrible circumstances she lives in and move to Salt Lake City, a place she believes will be her salvation.
The scenery is functional and clever, capturing everything from the joy of Disneyland to the war-torn villages of Africa—whilst never appearing overdone. The costumes are especially fun in the show. Sure, the main characters wear simple black pants, white shirt and a tie for the entirety of the show, but there’s an array of cameos from Yoda to Satan himself.
This neatly crafted musical which brings to light the practices and beliefs of Mormonism, simultaneously entertains and galvanizes the audience to introspect about their own beliefs, laugh at themselves, and maybe even treat people a little better. All this, and it avoids coming across as preachy.
Here’s what you should keep in mind if you decide to see Book of Mormon:
- Full bar, but insanely long lines
- Bathroom lines can get pretty long, so make sure to go ahead of time or right as intermission begins
- I found the seats to be comfortable, but the rows are very narrow; not so much leg or elbow room.
- There is a lottery option (2 tickets per winning person), but also a Standing Room Only option (also 2 per person) if you get there early enough. Those in the standing room line can also put their names into the lottery.