BWW Reviews: THE BOOK OF MORMON at the Kennedy Center - Is it Worth the Hype?
THE BOOK OF MORMON literally crashed the computer system at the Kennedy Center when tickets went on sale in March, 2013.
It won nine Tony Awards including BEST MUSICAL in 2011.
I couldn't wait to see it. I hadn't had so much anticipation about seeing a musical since THE PRODUCERS.
I recall Broadway audiences applauding the curtain rising for such hits as WICKED and SPAMALOT.
This didn't happen at the Kennedy Center. I expected it would.
I have thought long and hard about THE BOOK OF MORMON. Why did I have so many questions about this gigantic hit musical that on a DC ticket web site was snagging $500 for a center orchestra ticket. The critics all raved about it. One called it "the best musical of the century".
It's also one of the closest guarded secrets of any Broadway show in history. Have you seen any segments of the show on television, on "Late Night with Letterman"? The 2011 Tony Awards did show a snippet. So why have the producers been so tight-lipped about showing what the show really is about? When you see it....you'll know.
I expected a show that dealt with converting people to the Church of the Latter Day Saints, commonly known as Mormons. We even had a Mormon presidential candidate recently, remember Mitt Romney?
But this show is much more. It deals with two teen-age missionaries who are called Elders in the Mormon religion. There is Elder Price played with great panache by Mark Evans. Playing his side-kick, Elder Cunningham is Christopher John O'Neill, who is making his professional debut. (I was so looking forward to seeing Jared Gertner in this role but he is currently playing Elder Cunningham in London.) They truly are terrific together. Another stand-out missionary is Elder McKinley played by Grey Henson who just graduated from Carnegie Mellon's great acting program in Pittsburgh (2012) and is also making his professional debut. He shines in "Turn it Off" and can he tap dance.
The premise of the show is that Elder Price and Cunningham are assigned to Uganda to convert the natives there.
And one that stands out is Samantha Marie Ware who plays Nabulungi and she shines in two numbers "Sal Tlay Ka Siti" (Salt Lake City) and the hilarious "Baptize Me" which I can't get out of my head and is one of the funniest numbers in the show.
There are 35 actors in the show and I'm sure Actors Equity is thrilled so many dues paying members are on the tour and so are the actors. While there are 27 musicians on the CD there are only nine in the orchestra pit. (Washington's small Signature Theatre will have 15 for their upcoming production of MISS SAIGON.)
So many talented actors are in the ensemble. They are all full of energy on stage.
If you are fans of the hit televison animated classic "South Park", you may just love this show. Trey Parker and Matt Stone have won four Emmy Awards for "South Park. They have joined with AVENUE Q Tony winner Robert Lopez and the trio are responsible for the book, music, and lyrics. There are two Directors, Parker and Casey Nicholaw (who also did the choreography).
The music reminded me of a big production of Forbidden Broadway. So many numbers will remind you of prior Broadway shows. From the beginning number "Hello!" from BYE BYE BIRDIE. LION KING is mentioned three times. You will recognize songs that will remind you of THE MUSIC MAN, THE KING AND I, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS and WICKED. Yes, WICKED. Composer Stephen Schwartz must have been shocked that one of the composers of AVENUE Q (which upset WICKED for the Tony Award for Best Musical) would use a song so close to a number from WICKED (wait until you hear "You and Me (But Mostly Me)!
There's music which reminded me of the cartoon "Barney", another stolen from "We Are the World" ("I Am Africa). I also noticed so many numbers finished with a High C on the trumpet.