People who have been waiting for the Chicago production of the Tony Award winning musical “The Book Of Mormon” now have the opportunity to see for themselves just why this production was THE Tony Award hit that is still playing to sold out audiences in New York as Broadway In Chicago opened its production at The Bank Of America Theatre. After viewing this production for myself, I can see just why it won so many awards and why it has already been extended until June 3rd of 2013 ( trust me, it will run even longer than that). With a book , music and lyrics by Trey Parker,Robert Lopez and Matt Stone( Parker and Stone are the creators of the animated “South Park” and Lopez, the creator of “Avenue Q”) one knows going in that this is not an ORDINARY musical, but indeed one long, fun-filled evening of comedy and music that manages to throw jabs at not only the Mormons, but every other culture and religious belief out there.
In this brilliant show which might be considered an extra long SNL skit with some language not suitable for everyone, we meet the young men who are preparing themselves to become missionaries and be sent out to teach the lessons contained in “The Book Of Mormon” to those in need of something to believe in. Our two heroes, Elder Price (Nic Rouleau) and Elder Cunningham ( Ben Platt)who are complete opposites are paired up to go to Uganda to spread the word. Price believes that he is the perfect leader to change the lives of these people and Cunningham has no idea as to why he is even here, except to prove to his father that he can succeed. The village that they go to is under great strife as AIDS is causing many problems and the evil General is a major threat to their way of life. What happens during this 2 1/2 hours of magic on stage is that the elders with those who came before them appear to fail and Price decides to leave. While he is supposedly gone, Cunningham with the aid of local native Nabulungi ( deftly handled by Syesha Mercado) begins to convert the people of the village. There is a terrific bit about her being “Baptized), his first, with all the innuendos of first sex that changes the direction of the conversions. It seems that Albert lies and his teaching of the book are not actual but made up to allow him to continue to gain their trust.
It now looks as though while all other missionaries have failed, Elder Albert Cunningham is the hero, and the elders of Utah are coming to reward his great success with a medal. The celebration takes a change for the worse when the villagers perform a play they have written based on the teachings of Elder Cunningham and all Hell breaks loose. This is a wonderful, comic scene that may remind you of “The Small House of Uncle Thomas” from “The King and I”, only far more X-Rated and filled with the comic touches that only the writers of” South Park” and “Avenue Q”could come up with . This scene alone is worth the price of a ticket for this wild and crazy musical comedy that will delight both young and old ( when I say young, I mean upper teens). BUT BE AWARE: If you are a Mormon, you might not find this show as appealing as others will. If you are prudish and do not enjoy sexual and language situations, you may not find this funny. BUT, if you want entertainment that will have you laughing you a __ __ off, this is it!!
Directed by Casey Nicholaw ( who also did the choreography) and Trey Parker on a charming set by Scott Pask with all the flair of a Broadway show mixed with the intimacy of a Second City production, I can see this production being here for a long run. I am in hopes that Rouleau and Platt will stay for the entire run as they are both solid performers who play off each other well and have good voices to boot. While the musical numbers are fun, they are just there to propel the story along and allow for a few great dance numbers. As a side note, one of Chicago’s finest dramatic actors, James Vincent Meredith is one of the natives and while I am more used to seeing him do Shakespeare and dramatic work, he shows his true talent by handling a musical as well. Chicago is lucky to have a brilliant company moving into the Bank of America Theatre for what I hope is a long run. “The Book of Mormon” is a crowd please- like a “Spamalot” or “The Producers” this production will take your mind off anything that may have been bothering you before the curtain comes up and for hours after the curtain calls. Musical theater is supposed to allow you to “forget your troubles and just be Happy” and “The Book Of Mormon” does all that and more!
The show will continue at The Bank Of America Theatre located at 18 West Monroe Street through June 2nd, 2013 ( at least) . To see performance schedule, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com NOTE: there are no performances Christmas BUT there are 7:30 p.m. performances on New Years Eve and Day
Tickets range from $45-$115 ( there are some premium at $150) and can be purchased at any of the Broadway In Chicago theater box offices, at all Ticketmaster locations, by phone at 800-775-2000 or online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com
Day of show $25 seats are available ( limited quantity) by drawing. You must stop by the box office on the day of performance. They will provide you with a card where you print your name and the number of tickets you desire ( one or two ONLY). Two hours prior to curtain names will be drawn for those available and you MUST be present to be able to purchase the tickets at $25. One entry per person and you must show valid ID should your card be drawn. If you work or attend school downtown this is an opportunity to see the funniest musical in years, live , on stage for a very special price.