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Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone's "The Book of Mormon" at the Eugene O誰eill Theatre
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Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone's "The Book of Mormon" at the Eugene O誰eill Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights



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Anne Garafino and Scott Rudin, et al.
Present:

The Book of Mormon
(The Book of Mormon Website)
(Joseph Smith, Jr. Bio)

At
Eugene O誰eill Theatre
230 West 49th Street
NY, NY
212.239.6200

Book, Music, Lyrics by:
Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, Matt Stone

Choreography by Casey Nicholaw
Music Direction, Vocal Arrangements by Stephen Oremus

Starring: Josh Gad, Andrew Rannells,
Nikki M. James, Rory O樽alley, Michael Potts

And an ensemble of actors/singers/dancers

Scenic Design: Scott Pask
Costume Design: Ann Roth
Lighting Design: Brian MacDevitt
Sound Design: Brian Ronen
Hair Design: Josh Marquette
Casting: Carrie Gardner
Production Stage Manager: Karen Moore
Orchestrations: Larry Hochman & Stephen Oremus
Dance Music Arrangements: Glen Kelly
Music Coordinator: Michael Keller
Press: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
General Management: STP/David Turner
Production Management: Aurora Productions

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 29, 2011


At the end of this production, a wave of relief swept through me, as many of the lyrics, visuals, and repetitive comments were so vulgar and graphic, that the gestalt of this 田ould-have-been-great show was ruined. In fact, some songs won稚 be fully described in this review, but you can probably find those details elsewhere. Full disclosure: I do not watch 鉄outh Park, even the trailers, as I find them juvenile, low-brow, and disturbing. Trey Parker (Co-Director, Book, Music, Lyrics) and Matt Stone (Book, Music, Lyrics), who met in college, where they co-wrote Cannibal! The Musical, are the creators of Comedy Central痴 South Park, in its fifteenth year. Obviously there痴 a market for this material, and I wish them luck, but it痴 not for me. Robert Lopez (Book, Music, Lyrics) co-wrote Avenue Q, as well as songs for Disney痴 Winnie the Pooh.

I remember visiting the Joseph Smith Memorial Birthplace in Vermont, in my youth, as my parents had a home in the state, and we liked to explore. I also remember the Mormons knocking on our door in Massachusetts, many weekends, trying to deliver their books and pamphlets. We were polite but found it funny. I love religious and political humor, and elucidating fallacies in self-righteous proselytizers, so I had looked forward to The Book of Mormon with glee. Josh Gad and Andrew Rynells are Elder Cunningham, portly, adorable, and sincere, and Elder Price, tall, neat as a pin, and confident, two young Mormons sent on a mission to Uganda, to sign converts to the Mormon faith. Their assignment is to save these African souls. It痴 a tough job, given the danger, and he who succeeds will be well rewarded on earth and in heaven. The first few song and dance numbers, back in Utah, are stupendous, and the young male Mormons, in virtuous white shirts, black pants and ties, dance with their bibles in hilarious sequences. Casey Nicholaw痴 choreography here is at its finest.

It痴 in Uganda, where the show loses its appeal, for this writer, as the African ensemble is portrayed in the lowest form of insult to humanity, repetitively poking fun at raping babies and female mutilation, and the rest is mostly unmentionable. Nikki M. James, as Nabulungi, will surely find her way to many future stages, as her vocal talent is extraordinary. She greets the Mormon duo in costume and song, evocative of The Lion King. Mr. Gad and Mr. Rynells, who are also evocative of another show, The Odd Couple, with their contrasting manner and physicality, meet their Mormon colleagues in their threadbare space, and we get to meet Rory O樽alley as Elder McKinley, a guy who needs a song to help him repress some bothersome urges. 典urn It Off does the trick, with the ding of the light switch, and, again, I was in short-lived happiness. In fact, I壇 love to see a similar show about the Mormons, with a less depraved portraiture of the impoverished Ugandans. The brief cameo scenes of Brigham Young, Joseph Smith, and Jesus are farcical and brash, lending clever animation to this 田ould-have-been-great show.

The storyline that brings Elder Cunningham together with Nabulungi is triumphant, as both artists are so engaging and natural. Their joy in finding each other, along with Mr. Gad痴 newly found spunk, lent a truly engaging quality to their combined scenes. Michael Potts and Michael James Scott, as a Warlord and Doctor, had prominent roles with some unmentionable lines. AIDS was rampant in the Village, and AIDS could have been the focus of the Mormons mission, rather than focusing on the sideshow extras that propelled much of those scenes. In fact, Casey Nicholaw痴 choreography was drawn into one number about dysentery, or some such ailment, and I used the advice of these Mormons to 典urn It Off. Ann Roth痴 Ugandan costumes are adorned with colorful African motifs, and the missionaries, Mormon parents, and other Utah characters were iconically dressed. Scott Pask contrasted complex huts to spartan offices, plus some pastel fantasy scenes for Jesus et al. Brian MacDevitt痴 lighting was key to the shifting venues, indoors and out, and the effect was flawless. Kudos to the cast.










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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net