The juggernaut has arrived! Yes the winner of nine Tony Awards including Best Musical, "The Book of Mormon", has come to the Paramount Theatre to sold out houses. But can this highly anticipated touring show live up to all the hype and deliver? Do the Elders in Africa put on fabulous tap numbers? Well, for those that haven't seen the show yet, the answer to that is a resounding, "YES!"
Written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of "South Park" fame and Robert Lopez from "Avenue Q" fame, the show is a completely irreverent look at two Mormon missionaries, the uber-perfect Elder Price and the uber well intentioned but not so perfect Elder Cunningham (Mark Evans and Christopher John O'Neill), as they are sent on their mission to convert a small village in Uganda to the Mormon religion. Not an easy task as the people are sick, barely interested and under the thumb of a vicious warlord. So when Elder Price's tactics fail, Elder Cunningham bends the narrative of the teachings a bit and wins the hearts of the village especially of the lovely Nabulungi (Samantha Marie Ware) who longs for a better life beyond the village.
Now, as I said, it's irreverent. If you're offended by poop jokes, female circumcisions and foul language, STAY AWAY! This is not the show for you. After all, it's from the boys from "South Park" who made their fortune on pushing the envelope with their humor. But if, like me, you don't miss an episode of those Colorado boys or even if you can appreciate the well-placed F-Bomb (as there are plenty) then you hopefully already have tickets (cuz it's oh-so sold out, although you can take your chances on the day of show lottery) and are in for one hell of a treat. Yes, the humor is all there and there are plenty of gut-busting laughs in the show, but beyond that this is one hell of a good musical. Structurally it works on so many levels. Sure it borrows a lot of tricks from other shows but it works. The songs are catchy and move the story along. The characters are engaging. And the big flashy production numbers practically erupt off the stage. And I have to say, the opening number is structurally one of the most perfect I've heard. It sets up the tone of the show, introduces your two main characters and the conflict and is frikkin' hilarious and fun. In other words it does everything an opening number should do.
And the cast does credit to this killer of a show. Evans completely embodies his chiseled idealistic good boy and has a stunner of a voice. O'Neill manages a kind of clumsy sweetness but never takes his dorkiness over the top or mugs the joke. Grey Henson who plays the leader of the Elders (with a secret), Elder McKinley, also brings in the funny with his outrageously stylized fabulousness. In fact he takes his character a little broader than does O'Neill, which is a different dynamic than I'd seen before but it works. Ware is a complete powerhouse as the dreamer of the village. She has a killer voice and takes her ridiculous solo and makes it a sweet ballad while never burying the fun of it. And the rest of the ensemble is right with them all at every step, joke, and rude moment of the show.
There's a reason this show sells out in every city it goes to and is still selling out on Broadway, it's a complete winner. Some may be turned off by the subject matter or crassness of the humor, and to those people I say you are missing out on one hell of a great show!
"The Book of Mormon" performs at the Paramount Theatre through January 20th. For tickets or information visit the Seattle Theatre Group online at www.stgpresents.com.
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus