Millions of fans have kept the animated TV show “South Park” a hit for over 17 years and now they are going to see “The Book of Mormon” on Broadway that has been selling out for 2 years and breaking all kinds of theatre records. What do these two shows have in common? Trey Parker and Matt Stone have written the books for both shows, and have been joined by Robert Lopez, who wrote the lyrics and music for “Avenue Q” with all three being credited with the book, lyrics and music for this show.
The story is a simple one of two young Mormon missionaries who are sent on their two year mission to convert people to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints also known as the Mormon Church. Elder Cunningham (Christopher John O’Neill) is a compulsive liar who has never read the Book, and interprets the writings, and religion, in his own way, while Elder Price (Mark Evans) just knows he is bound for incredible feats for the church and has no doubt that his prayers will be answered to be sent to Orlando, Florida, for his mission. Elders Price and Cunningham find themselves being sent to northern Uganda where they are greeted by having their luggage stolen.
It is at this point that the work of Parker, Lopez and Stone kicks in. They started off with a sweet, funny song “Hello” that introduces the Mormon boys and incorporate the story of the founding of the religion, the latter being repeated a few times. The writers begin with the African natives, using their potty mouth humor to aim jokes, and satire, at AIDS, Gays, the rape of children, mutilation of female genital, to just name a few subjects they tackle from a juvenile point of view. What other writers could use the expression “Maggots in my crotch” at least a half a dozen times and get a laugh each time? The audience knows what to expect from these writers and would be let down if Mormon Elders didn’t come out tap dancing in bright pink sequined vests. For those not familiar with Parker,Stone and Lopez there are signs all over, including on the theatre ticket, “Parental Advisory: Explicit Language” and there certainly is a lot of that.
The main story is of the relationship between Price and Cunningham and their trying to convert the villagers to Mormonism along with a love story between Cunningham and a villager, Nabulungi (Samantha Marie Ware) with the former eventually baptising the latter and how it affects the whole village.
The writers take jabs at Broadway shows from “The Lion King” to “The King and I” while the choreographer, and co-director with Trey Parker, Casey Nicholaw hasn’t met a Broadway dance step that he doesn’t love and incorporates into the show. With the exception of the proscenium scenery the sets look ragged and the costumes are nothing special.
Mark Evans as Elder Price is appealing and does an excellent job singing “I Believe” and “Orlando” while Christopher John O’Neill does all the Broadway schtick that the writers and directors hand him. They both deliver singing “Two By Two”, “I Am Here For You” and joining ensemble players in “Turn It Off” and “Man Up”. Samantha Marie Ware, as an love interest for one of the boys, has a very good voice but is, at times, hard to understand. The leads, supporting cast, and the 9 piece orchestra under the direction of Justin Mendoza, received a standing ovation.
Running time: Each act is an hour and there is a 20 minute intermission.
Coming next to the BPAC is the new version of “The Wizard of Oz” with additional music by Andrew Lloyd Webber January 7-19.