As a Broadway musical, The Book of Mormon has received countless accolades (see: 9 Tony Awards, including Best Musical), so little needs to be said about its quality: the tremendously catchy songs, funny writing and outrageous, South Park-style raunchy lines and lyrics. But the big question is: How does the touring show hold up to the New York production? Personally, I don’t know. I didn’t see the NYC show. But I can say the Seattle show makes for a genuinely fun evening. Book of Mormon is a perfectly crafted bon-bon of musical theater—thoroughly enjoyable as you’re chewing it, and then, poof! it’s gone and you just feel a little happier. It does not inspire deep thoughts. You will not be turning it over and over in your head during the following days (except maybe to wonder, as I did, What would Romney think?). But that’s not the point. The point is laughs, and well crafted musical numbers and actually a pretty sweet story that in the course of pointing out the absurdities in the Mormon religion says, eh, all religion is based in some pretty far-out storytelling.
The touring leads are strong. On opening night Mark Evans (Elder Price) sounded a bit nasally in the first number, but his voice soon opened up into full-on, Broadway belting. Christopher John O’Neill (Elder Cunningham), as the schlumpy sidekick has excellent comic timing and a pleasingly rubbery face. He’s making his professional debut in this production and it shows a bit, as his singing isn’t as confident (or accurate) as the other leads. But his missed notes actually kind of work, given his character, who can’t seem to get anything quite right. He’s terribly endearing, both as a character and as a performer. Samantha Marie Ware as Nabulungi (or, as Elder Cunningham mistakenly calls her, Nicoderm CQ or Neil Patrick Harris and other misnomers) has a gorgeous voice, an impressive range and total control. I would’ve happily listened to her for longer. But I think my favorite was Grey Henson (Elder McKinley), also making his professional debut and totally nailing it as an eager young Mormon working diligently to squelch all “the gay” out of his brain and body. His humor, dancing, singing and acting were all spot-on, and made me wish his role were larger.
The opening night crowd was palpably amped. Responses were uproarious, even to the decidedly risque/racist/off-color/at times truly horrifying plot points—surprising for a Seattle audience. Perhaps people had prepped by watching South Park episodes back to back. (If you are even thinking your musical-loving kids might enjoy this, first ask yourself: am I fully prepared to explain clitorectomy?) During the intermission the murmuring was cacophonous, but with excitement, not outrage. Noting that the show received a standing ovation means absolutely nothing in this town, but in this case, I believe it was earned.
The local run sold out immediately, but that’s no reason to lose faith! You can put your name into a day-of lottery two hours before any show ($25 tickets; maximum of two; get the full details here). Only 20 tickets per show will be sold in this manner, but if you believe hard enough, you might just get your just reward.
PHOTO CREDIT: JOAN MARCUS, 2012