BWW Review: Inspiring CONFESSIONS OF A MORMON BOY (LIVE FROM LONDON) is Moving and Provocative
Before Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and Robert Lopez's BOOK OF MORMON made Missionaries cool, Steven Fales began sharing his personal story in the riveting and compelling one-man show CONFESSIONS OF A MORMON BOY. The show first premiered at the Sunstone Symposium in Salt Lake City in 2001. Since then, he has gone on to perform the show off-Broadway at the SoHo Playhouse with direction by Jack Hofsiss in 2006, all over the United States, the 2011 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and London's West End in 2011.
In September 2011, Simon Lambert recorded the audio from three of Steven Fales' performances of CONFESSIONS OF A MORMON BOY at The Charing Cross Theatre in London. In Salt Lake City, Joe Killian skillfully mixed the three shows together, expertly preserving Steven Fales' captivating one-man show and revealing treatise on his excommunication from the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints for being homosexual. CONFESSIONS OF A MORMON BOY (LIVE FROM LONDON) is a Spoken Word album that those who have seen or have yet to see Steven Fales live can appreciate and truly enjoy.
Steven Fales' performance on the live album is superbly enthralling and enchanting. Listening to him narrate his life story showcases his talents for captivating narrative. The listeners will easily find themselves clinging to his words and being swept away in this inspirational tale of love, loss, and personal discovery. Even though we may not share his life experiences, everyone will find aspects of Steven Fales' journey relatable and absorbing. The only weakness of the album-and it's a minor one brought on by the fact that I have seen the show live-is not actually seeing Steven Fales perform. Hearing him discuss his winning Donny Osmond smile is nothing like seeing it live on stage.
While each track is an essential and integral part of Steven Fales story, several stand out as favorites for me. For example, "N.A.R.T.H.," in which he discusses his funny and heartbreaking transition into "a tightly coiled homophobic homosexual" is a true gem on the album.
"The Bishop" is a raw, emotional, and extremely powerful track. It touches the hearts of the listeners on several different levels, as Steven Fales exposes us to his 9-year-old self, singing at his cousin Joshua's funeral, while he recounts his disappointment with the Bishop for not knowing his name. In these heavy and pristinely moving moments, we experience Steven Fales' search for comfort when he was reaching out to church in his times of great need.
After discovering he was expendable in the eyes of the church and getting divorced, Steven Fales utilizes "N.Y.C." to illustrate his transition to life in New York City. The track immaculately captures the tonal and emotional turning point in the show and Steven Fales' life, as he begins living as an openly gay male and has the world at his feet.
"Escorting" works surprisingly well as an audio recording. I did find myself missing the striking and entertaining visuals that go along with this part of the performance. However, I'm certain that the imagination of listeners who have not seen the show will do justice to those moments by filling in the blanks accordingly.
Just like seeing the show live, the last 17 minutes or so of the show are the most emotionally powerful. The tracks representing this portion are "Crystal Meth" through "Conclusion." Without skimping on a single detail, Steven Fales bares his soul and the depths of his despair, creating a profoundly moving experience for audiences both in the theatre with him and those listening to the album. The depth of how lost Steven was is made surreally tangible, even with only the audio is present.
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