The Book of Mormon Unlike Anything You Have Ever Seen Before
The FSCJ Artist Series presents the national tour of the Tony award-winning musical, “The Book of Mormon,” part of the Broadway in Jacksonville Season, at the Times Union Center, 300 Water Street in downtown Jacksonville. For information and tickets, call 442-2929 or visit artistseriesjax.org.
The satirical “The Book of Mormon” received nine Tony awards in 2011, which included Best Musical, Best Book, and Best Original Score. The play was originally conceived in 2003 by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the guys from the “South Park” TV show, who later asked songwriter Robert Lopez, famous for his work in the award-winning “Avenue Q,” to join them in this new creative effort. Several years of development followed.
Research included trips to Salt Lake City to interview Mormons who were or had been missionaries, a voluntary choice strongly encouraged by the church (formally known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
The creators took an enormous chance, by-passing the option of an out-of-town or Off-Broadway theatre, and went directly to the big stage, opening on Broadway in 2011 at The Eugene O’Neill Theatre. The production was a smash hit, and with sold-out houses and average ticket prices of over $170, backers recouped their initial investment of eleven million dollars in just nine months.
Much has been written about this show by critics who have seen it on Broadway or during a road show performance. It’s best for those who are open-minded about the subject matter of satire. Don’t expect to learn a lot about the Mormon Church; of interest, the program includes church advertising recommending thebookofmormon.org for information about the original source material. Advisory: the play contains explicit language and situations; leave the kids home.
The simple plot is the story of two young Mormon missionaries sent to the East African county of Uganda. Elder Price is disappointed with his assignment; he had hoped for Orlando. Elder Cunningham doesn’t care where he’s assigned; he’s never had friends and now he and Price will be inseparable companions for the next two years. They travel to a remote village in the northern part of the county, ruled by a tyrannical and brutal military warlord, who is constantly terrorizing the population. When they attempt to spread the teachings of their Mormon faith, they are largely ignored by the residents who are more concerned with problems like AIDS, poverty, and starvation than with salvation.
This is a musical, so there are catchy tunes, cutting satire, and cascades of spirited bad taste humor. Let us answer questions Jacksonville audiences might ask. It is funny? Yes, especially if you like your humor Monty Python or South Park style. How is it as a theatre piece? It has excellent sets and costumes and is a fast-paced show. The choreography is frenzied but lots of fun. The songs have clever lyrics, and while none will make the hit parade, we especially liked the zany “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream.” The original production auditioned hundreds of actors, then selected twenty-eight. This road show has excellent talent with fine voices. And while this show may appear to have been conceived just to offend religion, its overall purpose is entertainment; entertainment with a happy ending!
Still not sure you want to take the plunge and see what is considered a ground-breaking musical, language-wise, anyway? Then check out “Book of Mormon” on YouTube, where you can find cast recordings, for a good idea of what to expect.
If you like musical theatre, you’ll want to add this to your list of experiences, as it is unlike anything you have ever seen before.