BWW Reviews: BOOK OF MORMON Brings True Ensemble Talent to Omaha
The smash hit musical Book of Mormon officially started performances at Omaha's Orpheum Theater on October 12, and was greeted with well deserved thunderous applause and standing ovations. From the creators of the hit TV show South Park, and winner of nine Tony Awards, this musical centers around two young men, Elder Price, the stereotypical perfect young Mormon man who just wants to make a difference in the world, and Elder Cunningham, his awkward companion who has a heart of gold and a serious love for storytelling and Star Wars. The audience follows the young men as they are sent on a mission to Uganda to bring the Mormon faith to the people they meet there.
With all the controversy surrounding the subject matter of production, audience members are sure to have their own opinions and many things to say about it. The one thing that is absolutely irrefutable is the talent of this incredible cast. Whether it is their singing, dancing or acting, they raise the bar for future productions that come to the Omaha area. From ensemble to leading players, they are all incredible performers. Their unity as an ensemble radiates from the stage and their harmonies leave the audience humming the tunes well into the next afternoon.
As Elder Price, Nic Rouleau is perfection - literally. His ability to capture the drive and passion of Elder Price makes the audience love him, even when they know he's in the wrong. His vocals are superb and soar on numbers like the crowd favorite, "I Believe." While many fans of the show were first introduced to the character created by Omaha native, Andrew Rannells, Nic makes this role his own and just as memorable. This is only the beginning for this young man. I wouldn't be surprised to see him back on the Broadway stage in the New Year.
Internet sensation, A.J. Holmes, is absolutely brilliant as the nerdy best friend, Elder Cunningham. His charm is undeniable and he easily draws in the audience and keeps them at his side throughout the entire production. To add to his already lovable performance, his amazing vocals only enhance his already outstanding performance. At no point does his character feel fake or forced, which is a testament to his abilities. You can't help but like the guy!
Beautifully balancing out Holmes's Elder Cunningham is Syesha Mercado, who portrays the innocent and eager-to-learn Nabulungi. While Syesha may have been a bit under the weather Sunday night, her performance is still flawless and easily makes her a standout in this production.
Other notable performances are delivered by triple threat Pierce Cassidy as the absolutely hilarious Elder McKinley; James Vincent Meredith as the stern, but lovable father of Nabulungi, Mafala Hatimbi; and David Aron Damane as the explicitly named, and absolutely fabulous General.
Having listened to the CD before seeing the production, I knew a little of what was in store for the audience Sunday night. Even so, I was still completely unprepared for some of the more controversial parts in the musical. While it all comes together in the end to deliver a positive message, at a few points in the show I was left squirming in my seat at the approach taken to present this story with some of the language used and creative choices made. While the creators of Book of Mormon are beyond successful in putting together a show with an absolutely brilliant musical score, choreography, and set design, I have to say that at times it feels as though lyrics and/or lines are added for shock value more than to further the story of the musical.
While Book of Mormon is not necessarily a musical for everyone, it is definitely a show that opens up conversation about some very important issues and is sure to keep audiences talking for years.