BWW Review: THE BOOK OF MORMON at Providence Performing Arts Center
THE BOOK OF MORMON, which is running for one week at the Providence Performing Arts Center until April 28th, follows two Mormon Missionaries as they attempt to preach the Mormon religion to the inhabitants of a remote Ugandan village. The earnest young men are challenged by the lack of interest of the locals, who are distracted by more pressing issues such as AIDS, famine and oppression from the village warlords. The play makes light of various Mormon beliefs and practices, but ultimately endorses the positive power of love and service, while at the same time being the raunchiest play I have ever seen, while at the same time being one of the most entertaining shows I have ever seen. The script, lyrics, and music were written by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone. Parker and Stone were best known for creating the animated comedy South Park. Lopez had co-written the music for the musical Avenue Q. These three have created a deeply offensive, great night of theater.
In 2003, after Parker and Stone saw Avenue Q, they met with the musical's co-writer Lopez and began developing the musical, meeting sporadically for several years. Parker and Stone grew up in Colorado, and references to the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints had been commonplace in their previous works. For research, the trio took a trip to Salt Lake City to meet with current and former Mormon missionaries. Beginning in 2008, developmental workshops were staged. The show's producers, Scott Rudin and Anne Garefino, opted to open the show directly on Broadway.
The show opened on Broadway in March 2011, after nearly seven years of development. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints responded indifferently; however, they did purchase advertising space in its playbill in later runs. The Book of Mormon garnered overwhelmingly positive critical responses and set records in ticket sales for the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. The show was awarded nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album. The original Broadway cast recording became the highest-charting Broadway cast album in over four decades, reaching number three on the Billboard charts. In 2013, the musical premiered in London, followed by two US national tours. A production in Melbourne and the first non-English version, in Stockholm, both opened in January 2017. Productions in Oslo and Copenhagen followed.
The performers in this touring company were equal to the task. Liam Tobin and Jordan Matthew Brown as Elders Price and Cunningham had strong voices and delivered their often-hilarious lines flawlessly. Kayla Pecchioni as Nabulungi has just a lovely voice, and I will never hear "Salt Lake City" again without thinking of her pronunciation. This is a thirty-person cast, and they can all sing, can all dance. A lot of the scenery was deliberately stagey and whimsical, but the vision of hell stays with you.
THE BOOK OF MORMON has grossed over $500 million, making it one of the most successful musicals of all time. It deserves to be. It runs at the Providence Performing Arts Center until Sun, Apr 28th. This beautiful venue is completely accessible. Tickets run from $30-$133. For information either call (401) 421-2787, or reach them on-line at ppacri.org
Photo credit Julietta Cervantes