Saturday, November 30, 2013

Broward Center: The Book of Mormon (reviews)

BOM-290pxThe national tour of The Book of Mormon opened at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on November 26, 2013.
Ben Brantley of The New York Times calls it "the best musical of this century." Entertainment Weekly says it's "the funniest musical of all time." From South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, it's The Book of Mormon, winner of nine Tony Awards® including Best Musical. Jon Stewart of The Daily Show calls it "a crowning achievement. So good it makes me angry."
Trey Parker and Casey Nicholaw directed a cast that included Mark Evans, Christopher John O’Neill, Derrick Williams, Stanley Wayne Mathis, Samantha Marie Ware, and Grey Henson.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
…for the 85,000 or so people who will see The Book of Mormon during its Fort Lauderdale run, the show is likely to be one of the most entertaining experiences they’ll have in many a season.
The show is hilariously and beautifully crafted, so that even as you recoil from bits that seem to go too far — say the antics of Genghis Khan, Adolph Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer and Johnny Cochran during the Spooky Mormon Hell Dream number, or the really gross parts of the offensive yet wildly funny Joseph Smith American Moses — you move on to the next gut-busting laugh.
The production is of a piece with the work by Parker, Lopez and Stone. Co-directed by Parker and Casey Nicholaw, with stellar choreography by Nicholaw, the show unfolds within a special proscenium arch by designer Scott Pask that’s made to look like a Mormon temple, with a moveable golden Angel Moroni at its apex.
The touring cast is superb, from the winsome Ware to the comically terrifying Williams, whose facial reactions when Elder Price decides to share the Mormon message with the general are priceless. As Elder McKinley, a way-gay missionary whose musical advice regarding non-Mormon impulses is Turn It Off, Grey Henson is irresistible. Most significantly, the vital and palpable chemistry between the square-jawed Evans and the goofy O’Neill gives the show its heart. And that, like laughter, is something The Book of Mormon has in abundance.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Hallelujah, children! We are delivered from the bondage of political correctness, the oppression of reactionary repression and the tyranny of the status quo. Raise up your voice and praise the bringer of these blessings — the national tour at the Broward Center of the Broadway musical, The Book of Mormon.
For all its iconoclastic material, Mormon hews closely to the time-tested structure and conventions of a traditional well-made musical. Even the orchestrations by the versatile Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus sound like a traditional Broadway musical. Second and more telling, The Book of Mormon may skewer organized religion, but it’s actually sweetly supportive of the moral good that comes out of faith. It’s actually pro-faith in its own very backhanded way.
This first road company throws themselves into the show with an infectious pep and vigor that deliver the sense over the footlight that they are having a hell of a good time so you should too.
... Evans is less priggish and more rubber-faced than the role’s originator, Andrew Rannells. He does some wonderful slow burns and deer-in-the-headlights takes such as when he realizes what Hasa Diga Eebowai means. O’Neill is more adorably inept but less buffoonish that Josh Gad, the Broward resident who originated the role. Ware is also dead perfect in her portrayal of someone dreaming of a new life. Her lovely soprano caresses the ballads like “Salt Lake City,” but she has a mischievous gleam in her eyes. Henson is hilarious as the leader fighting to cope with is latent homosexuality, creating a sort of Paul Lynde/Charles Nelson Reilly vibe to the character.
Roger Martin reviewed for miamiartzine:
If you're cynical, fed up with political correctness, somewhat doubtful of the benefits of organized religion and you're absolutely delighted when you find people who are creative, imaginative, disciplined and witty then you're going to love this show. And it's a musical, wow, with twenty terrific song and dance numbers.
There's wonderfully sardonic innocence in The Book of Mormon, just as there is callous humor and the two are melded beautifully, but the strength of this show lies in its ultimate professionalism.  No weak links here in the crispness of the dancing, the imagination of the choreography, the brilliance of the lighting, the settings of heaven and hell, Utah and Africa. The two leads, Evans and O'Neill, are outstanding, and right there with them is Grey Henson as Elder McKinley.
Rod Stafford Hagwood gave up any pretense of skill, submitting a sophomoric “Ten Commandments” instead of a readable review for the Stunned-Senseless; the result is his usual torrent of sentence fragments;
Despite being profane, vulgar and sacrilegious, the musical is at its heart sweet and even old-fashioned, with a tap number, hokey backdrops and every cheap (but effective) theatrical trick imaginable.
Have faith in this heavenly cast. In the lead roles, Mark Evans (Price) has stage savvy, and Christopher John O’Neill (Cunningham) has cunning comedic timing.
The score by “South Park” duo Trey Parker and Matt Stone along with “Avenue Q” creator Robert Lopez pays demented homage to the Broadway form by suggesting everything from “Bye, Bye Birdie, “The King & I” and “Annie” to “Wicked”, “The Lion King” and “Spamalot.”
I remember when Fort Lauderdale had a newspaper worth reading.  Those days are gone.

Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
They call them musical comedies, but you can count on a couple of hands the stage shows that are truly, laugh-out-loud funny. Certainly on that short list is The Book of Mormon, fueled by humor that is irreverent and profane, sprung directly from the fertile brains of South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
Evans has matinee idol looks, all the better to contrast with O’Neill’s slovenly, goofy appearance, but the two play off each other well and together have killer comic timing. Among the squeaky clean missonaries, Grey Henson is a standout as a closeted gay guy who thinks he is better at hiding his sexual orientation than he is.

The Ugandans amuse performing Nicholaw’s tongue-in-cheek tribal choreography and Samantha Marie Ware will win you over as name-mangled Nabulungi, as close as the show comes to a love interest. Unless, of course, you count the love of an audience for an anything-for-a-laugh musical that has more guffaws per square inch than any musical comedy of the past decade.
The Book of Mormon plays at the Broward Center through Sunday, December 22, 1013.

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