BWW Review: THE BOOK OF MORMON a Raucous Romp Through Religion Opens at the Music Hall
Remember turning off the lights and not answering the door when the men in white shirts and a tie rang the doorbell wanting to give you that free book and tell you about their religion. No need to shut off the lights and run and hide when these men appear at the Music Hall. Yes, they do want to spread their faith with THE BOOK OF MORMON, the hilarious musical comedy now playing at the Kansas City Music Hall through Sunday, December 30.
Music, script, and lyrics are written by Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Robert Lopez. Lopez wrote the music for Avenue Q and was approached by Parker and Stone who is best known for the animated series South Park. Natives of Colorado Parker and Stone have made references to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in their previous works. As in South Park no ethnic group, topic, politics or religion is safe from the sharp satirical jabs by the play's creators.
After seven years of development, the play opened on Broadway in March of 2011. When the show opened the church appeared uninterested in the production which made light of their beliefs and practices. However later in the Broadway run the church bought advertising space in the show's playbill. The Broadway production won nine Tony Awards including Best Musical and a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album. With ticket sales over $500 million dollars, THE BOOK OF MORMON is one of the most successful musicals ever produced.
After graduating from missionary training Elder Price (played by Liam Tobin) and Elder Cunningham (played by Conner Pierson) are sent to Uganda to join a group of missionaries who are trying to bring the Mormon faith to a village of residents that have no interest in hearing about the religion, let alone being baptized. The villagers have more concerns about the growing AIDS epidemic, fear of the local warlord and starving to death
Price and Cunningham find that the current missionaries had not converted one soul
since setting up in the village. Price believing that only he can bring the villagers into his flock quickly becomes discouraged with the lack of enthusiasm of the locals. Elder Price is captured by the local warlord and soon gives up his faith and the Mormon church. In "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" Tobin enters Hell where he is surrounded by devils, demons and the evil soul of Adolph Hitler among others. Every aspect of the song from Tobin's performance to the costumes and scenery was magnificent.
Pierson as Elder Cunningham is spectacular with his actions and demeanor, which at times is sidesplitting. After Elder Price leaves the missionary Elder Cunningham, who openly admits has never read The Book of Mormon, goes to the village in an attempt to spark interest into the locals. He is assisted by the daughter of the tribal chief Nabulungi (wonderfully played by Kayla Pecchioni) who wants to be baptized and learn more about the religion. Having not read the book Cunningham does what any good missionary would and makes up his own story about the Mormon beginning. Though not historically accurate, it is doubtful that Star Wars or Star Trek characters actually played a part in the founding of the faith, all the villagers become enthralled with his version and ask to be baptized.
Teddy Trice a Kansas City native is in the ensemble of THE BOOK OF MORMON was an original member of the Australian Tour of the play. The Australian Tour won two Helpmann Awards for Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical and was nominated in six other categories. The Helpmann Awards are accolades for live entertainment and performances in Australia.
THE BOOK OF MORMON continues at the Music Hall through December 30P. Tickets may be purchased online at www. musichallkansascity.secureboxoffice.com.
Photos Copywrite by Julieta Cervantes