Trey Parker and Matt Stone, whose work includes the immensely popular television series “South Park,” launched a new attack on conventionality in 2011 when they mounted “The Book of Mormon” on Broadway. The boys have loyal legions of followers, and deservedly so. Their brand of bad-boy irreverence and joyfully juvenile profane assaults are crassly entertaining, and in many cases, very accurate and pointed observations about elements of society & life of which we’d like not to admit.
“The Book of Mormon,” now on stage at The Fox through March 3rd, is about two young men of the Mormon faith who are sent from a training center in Provo, Utah, on a two-year missionary assignment to Uganda to convert and baptize the locals. Mark Evans is spot on as the ambitious perfectionist, Elder Price, and his partner is Elder Cunningham, played by Christopher John O’Neill. Elder Cunningham is a short, portly young man with image and self-confidence issues. O’Neil plays him almost too boyish and gentle. It would have been nice to see him exert more intensity.
The trip is a little less than successful, as you might imagine, until Elder Cunningham’s gift for fiction lands him a village full of converts, something the local Mormon mission has been unable to achieve before the two newcomers arrive. It even topples a local war lord who has been terrorizing the villagers.
There were a couple of musical numbers that I really enjoyed in “The Book of Mormon,” “Hello” and “Turn It Off” in Act I. But don’t go looking for them in the program. Seems the show’s Producers have never put the song list in the show’s program ever. Curious.
The orchestra is slight with nine pieces that include four local musicians.
Samantha Marie Ware plays a native girl who is Elder Cunningham’s first convert. She is quite good, although some of her lyrics and lines were difficult to understand. In fact, sound and clarity is an issue in this company at The Fox. I think it varies a lot with where you are sitting. Some punch lines sounded liked they were understood by only about half the audience.
Choreography in “The Book of Mormon” fits the moment and the music. There are several segments and one particular song in Act II that will be a turn-off to most people. I have a feeling that about 50% of the success of this show is more brilliant marketing than anything else. But then again, the production is designed to preach to the converted. And the converted will love it.