Very few Broadway productions have earned as much critical and commercial success as the unapologetically uproarious musical comedy, “The Book of Mormon,” which debuted in 2011. As the winner of an astounding nine Tony Awards, not to mention five Drama Desk honors, and even a Grammy for its best-selling original cast album, audiences in New York and around the globe have reveled in the satire, ribaldry, and exuberantly provocative nature of the plot.
And, during the limited engagement between March 20th and April 1st, residents in Orange County and the rest of Southern California at large will have the opportunity to see why the musical has the staying power it does at the Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa, CA. With tickets starting at an affordable $34.75, this opportunity is especially enticing for the many who unfortunately missed out on last summer’s sold-out run of the national tour at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood.
Looking back to when the production’s seeds were initially planted in 2003, it’s easy to recognize why “The Book of Mormon” is an indelible product of its visionaries’ collaboration, who wrote the hysterical book, music, and lyrics. Trey Parker and Matt Stone, of “South Park” and “Team America: World Police” fame, and Robert Lopez, who co-created the outrageous “Avenue Q” and co-wrote the songs in “Frozen,” indisputably turned out to be a virtuoso trio made in Mormon musical heaven. Assisted by Casey Nicholaw’s infectiously energetic choreography, who is the co-director along with Parker, Scott Pask’s scenic design and Ann Roth’s costumery have come to life, proving to be as evocatively vibrant as can be, in toe-tapping tune with the ingenious musical direction by Stephen Oremus.
With a myriad of creative elements at play by the best personnel in the business, “The Book of Mormon” succeeds as unanimously as it does because, not dissimilar to Parker and Stone’s prior works, the narrative is both out-of-this-world surreal, and yet rooted in a charming reality. This paradox makes for the best lampoons because it suffuses the senses insofar that we don’t know how to parse the verisimilitudes from the adroit distortions. The believability of the characters lures us in, where we surrender and accept the most outlandish of events. This is often followed by a consistently gut-busting laughter, making for a memorable experience. As such, this is the allure of “The Book of Mormon,” which takes the image of the always-jubilant and well-intentioned Mormons (clad in immaculate white dress shirts, black ties, and black slacks) and combines it with a suspenseful setting, necessary tribulations, and tests of faith.
The premise is simple yet brilliant: Elder Kevin Price (Kevin Clay) and Elder Arnold Cunningham (Conner Peirson) – along with Elder McKinley (Andrew Huntington Jones) — are tasked with the responsibility of converting a Ugandan village, whose inhabitants are subjugated by an oppressive General (Corey Jones), to Mormonism. The two Mormon men befriend female villager, Nabulungi (Kayla Pecchioni), and use the proselytizing power of Joseph Smith (Ron Bohmer) to further their endeavor, but not before being faced with a few existential obstacles of their own.
The story — as drolly bizarre as it can be at times – deals with solemn topics with perhaps a healthy derision and facetiousness. As the show’s creators have shown, it’s possible to poke fun at something without any hint of contemptuousness. Refreshingly, not much offense is taken by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (founded by Joseph Smith), which has admirably taken the musical’s plot and songs in stride.
If the musical was haphazardly put together it would be one thing, but “The Book of Mormon” has established the secure reputation it has because of its painstaking cleverness that, at the end of the day, intends to be good-natured rather than nefarious. Songs like “Hello,” “Two by Two,” “You and Me (But Mostly Me),” “Hasa Diga Eebowai,” “Turn It Off,” “All American Prophet,” “Sal Tlay Ka Siti,” “Man Up,” “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream,” “I Believe,” “Tomorrow Is a Latter Day,” and more, illustrate the artfulness of the words, their meanings, and how they relate to the characters.
All in all, having grossed more than $500 million, it’s hard to disagree with a show that has seamlessly melded religious themes with other challenging-to-broach topics within the realm of a dastardly funny universe. From March 20th until only April 1st at the Segerstrom Hall — located inside the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa, CA — expected full-capacity audiences of nearly 3,000 for every performance will undoubtedly understand what “The Book of Mormon’s” fuss is all about.
Besides the names previously mentioned, the national touring cast also includes Sterling Jarvis, Randy Aaron, Jaron Barney, Christopher Brasfield, Jacob Ben-Shmuel, Robert Colvin, Jake Emmerling, Zach Erhardt, Kenny Francoeur, John Garry, Eric Geil, Keisha Gilles, André-Chance Goddard, Eric Huffman, Kristen Jeter, Kolby Kindle, Tyler Leahy, Will Lee-Williams, Monica L. Patton, John Pinto Jr., Stoney B. Mootoo, J Nycole Ralph, Jamard Richardson, Tyrone L. Robinson, Leonard E. Sullivan, and Brinie Wallace.
For more information about “The Book of Mormon” at the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa, CA, please visit scfta.org
And for more details about “The Book of Mormon” musical, please visit BookofMormonTheMusical.com