Friday, October 23, 2015

theatre review - THE BOOK OF MORMON - National Tour / ASU Gammage - October 21, 2015

Alexandra Ncube
photo: Joan Marcus
Click here for more information on this production that runs through November 8th.

"After running for over four years on Broadway and three years on tour, the smash hit musical The Book of Mormon finally makes it to the Phoenix area, and it is well worth the wait. The musical by Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Robert Lopez swept the 2011 Tonys, winning nine awards, including Best Musical. While the show has been called "filthy" and "offensive" it actually is a charming, sweet, and exceptional musical that doesn't just mock the Mormon religion but celebrates it as well. It is also a show with a huge heart, and the national tour production, playing at ASU Gammage in Tempe through November 8th, is on par with a Broadway production, led by an exceptionally talented cast....The problem in seeing this show after hearing so many good reviews and knowing that it has been called "vulgar" is that the end result may not live up to the initial expectations. ..So, perhaps it's good to know what The Book of Mormon isn't. It isn't as crude as it has been hyped to be. While it does mock religion and the Mormon faith it isn't mean spirited toward them and portrays the members of the Mormon religion as real people, not caricatures. Is it the funniest musical ever? While there are numerous moments that are very funny, it isn't a laugh out loud show from start to finish. Does it have a great score that will have you humming the songs on your way home? There are definitely some toe-tapping numbers, but also a few that aren't that memorable. Is the story creatively well crafted and does it break new ground? While the plot can pretty much be described in one sentence it does have characters who grow and change along with a nice pay off, but it isn't a ground-breaking musical like Les Misérables. But what The Book of Mormon does have is a bringing together of all the elements to make a sweet, charming musical that makes fun of organized religion and celebrates it at the same time. ..The three leads for this national tour are exceptional and the ensemble is given a lot to do. ...Billy Harrigan Tighe and A.J. Holmes are the two missionaries. Holmes is Elder Cunningham, a nerdy, goofy slacker who hasn't even read the actual "Book of Mormon" that he is supposed to be knowledgeable of, and he sometimes makes things up in order to be more likable. Tighe is the Ken-like, handsome and charming yet completely self-centered overachiever Elder Price, who basically thinks everything is about him. ...ASU graduate Alexandra Ncube plays Nabulungi, the daughter of the leader of the Ugandan village. Ncube has a phenomenal, clear voice and great stage presence with both of her co-stars as well as with Stanley Wayne Mathis who plays her father....The national tour of The Book of Mormon has a great cast and the musical has a funny book, a score with several show stopping numbers, is well directed and choreographed with imaginative set pieces, and leaves you with a smile on your face. For a musical that attempts to mock and celebrate religion at the same time The Book of Mormon succeeds, and actually accomplishes the task of mocking something better than most episodes of "South Park," as it does so with a huge dose of sincerity. While there is plenty of vulgarity and a couple of shocking moments, it is also an extremely enjoyable musical with a huge amount of heart. The end result is a funny, touching, and memorable show."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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