The Book of Mormon: Say “Hello” Now—Theatre

Like “The Book of Mormon,” I believe.  I believe The Kennedy Center’s production of “The Book of Mormon” is the best musical I have seen in quite some time. You can believe, too. Believe all the hype that surrounds this amazing show.Book of Mormon-KenCen

Frequently the touring production of a Broadway hit can be a letdown. But it’s hard to how imagine that what you’ll see at NYC’s Eugene O’Neill Theatre could be any better than what you’ll see at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in DC.

With book, music and lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone, “The Book of Mormon” takes an irreverent look at the “selling” of Mormonism. In truth, however, this play could be about any organized religion that seeks to spread its message and gain converts (see Bill Maher’s “Religulous”).  “The Book of Mormon” is really smart, extremely creative, funny, offensive and loving…yes loving. With “South Park’s” Parker and Stone at the helm, would you expect anything else? Their series is routinely profane and hilarious, but it’s also full of heart. So it is with “The Book of Mormon.”

“Mormon” is the story of Elder Price (Mark Evans) and his follower, Elder Cunningham (Christopher John O’Neill),  and their efforts to bring Mormonism to Uganda. It’s about losing faith and finding it again.

The Kennedy Center cast is phenomenal. The two leads are absolutely fantastic. O’Neill is terrific as follower Cunningham who finds his confidence and voice in Africa. It’s impossible to believe that this is his professional debut as a theatrical performer. How is that possible? He delivers his lines like a Broadway veteran and sings and dances with abandon. I thought, at first, that he might over shadow Evans’ Elder Price. I was wrong.  Evans holds his own and then some.  His Price is the Mormon who has always done what’s expected of him and is used to being viewed as “the chosen one.” When he is sent to Uganda rather than the hoped-for Orlando, his faith is severely tested. Price manages to reinvigorate his beliefs in the number, “I Believe.” At that moment, Mark Evans owns the stage and it’s positively magical.

The supporting cast is extremely strong. Samantha Marie Ware’s Nabulungi has an especially beautiful voice and does a great job at conveying naiveté and joy.

Each number is choreographed to perfection and the sets and costumes are astounding. “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream,” in particular, is a stand-out as are the opening and closing versions of “Hello.”

The Kennedy Center‘s “Book of Mormon” production runs through August 18. The touring company will be making the rounds of other cities throughout the year. Be it NYC, DC, Chicago or any city, for that matter…see it! See it! See it!

Runs through August 18

4 nuggets out of 4

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