The winter storm known as “Pax” hit the Triangle area on Wednesday, and, unfortunately for many ticket holders, so did the second performance in the all sold-out run of “The Book of Mormon,” directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker, at Durham Performing Arts Center. DPAC decided not to call off the show, and as a result, only around 500 people, including this reviewer, were in attendance. DPAC made the best of the situation, offering free coffee and cupcakes to those who were courageous enough (or stupid enough, depending on how you choose to look at it) to brave the weather.
Even without the freebies, however, traveling on treacherous roads would have been worth it; “Book of Mormon” is every bit as fabulous, funny, and wonderfully offensive as one could hope for. The Tony and Grammy award winning musical tells the story of a group of hopeful and hopelessly naïve missionaries who are sent to minister to the people of Uganda. When they find what Africa is really like, their faith is questioned and put to the test with unexpected results. While the story pokes fun at Mormonism and religion in general, it is ultimately uplifting and a testament to the positive power of faith when it is used in the right ways.
The main set piece for the production is an arching façade made to look like a Mormon temple, complete with the golden angel Moroni on top. The temple reaches up toward planets and clouds, symbolic of the Mormon belief in eternal progression. Even those unfamiliar with Mormon theology, however, will find the set beautiful and workable; throughout many numbers, lights in the stained-glass windows of the temple twinkle and flash along with the music.
Twinkling lights or not, however, the production goes smoothly from one musical number to the next, and each is more powerful than the one before. The opening number “Hello” serves not only to give viewers a glimpse into what a “Mormon mission” is all about but also to endear the audience members to a few of the eager, innocent-faced young missionaries they will follow throughout the course of the play. Two of those members are the straight-laced Elder Price (Mark Evans), who firmly believes he will do “something incredible” on his mission, and the chubby, bumbling Elder Cunningham (Christopher John O’Neill), who has a habit of telling lies. The mismatched duo are paired together and given their mission location, and then all of the missionaries launch into “Two by Two,” a musical number that’s unforgettable due to its frantic marching chorography. Other memorable numbers include “Hasa Diga Eebowai,” in which all of the African characters dance with their middle fingers stretched toward the sky, and “Turn it Off,” featuring missionaries tap dancing around in glitter-vests ; what’s not to love?
Despite the silliness and the outrageous songs, the story is ultimately a coming of age story, one about overcoming pride, finding true faith, and most importantly of all, finding one’s place in the world. Evans really gets to the heart of the show’s deeper meaning with his charming portrayal of the staunch Elder Price, while O’Neill constantly keeps the audience laughing, carefully mastering his character’s penchant for fumbles and fibs. The real show-stealer, however, is Nabulungi (Samantha Marie Ware), the young African village girl who puts her trust in the missionaries, believing they can lead her to a better life. Ware’s powerhouse voice and innocent delivery makes her an absolute delight to watch.
It’s unfortunate that everyone couldn’t make it out to see this perfect production of the “Book of Mormon,” but the faithful few who did are undoubtedly happy with their decisions.
Full Disclaimer: Susie Potter is a proud member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a fact that likely surprises those who knew her in college.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents THE BOOK OF MORMON at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 13, 8 p.m. Feb. 14, 2 and 8 p.m. Feb. 15, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Feb. 16, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 18-20, 8 p.m. Feb. 21, 2 and 8 p.m. Feb. 22, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Feb. 23 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco District.
TICKETS: $64.50-$156.00 (including fees).
DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events/how_to_buy_tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1732682.
SHOW: http://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/the-book-of-mormon and https://www.facebook.com/events/344716948971677/.
THE TOUR: http://www.bookofmormonbroadway.com/1st_national_tour.php, https://www.facebook.com/BookofMormonMusicalTour, https://twitter.com/BookMormonTour (Twitter page).
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.youtube.com/user/BookOfMormonBroadway?feature=watch.
PRESENTER: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, and https://twitter.com/DPAC.
DPAC NEWS RELEASES: http://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/the-book-of-mormon-announces-lottery-ticket-policy-at-dpac and http://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/the-book-of-mormon-at-dpac-public-on-sale-october-26.
SUNTRUST BROADWAY SERIES: http://www.dpacnc.com/suntrust-broadway-series.
VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, and https://twitter.com/DPAC.
The Book of Mormon (2011 Broadway and 2013 West End musical): http://www.bookofmormonthemusical.com/ (official website), http://www.bookofmormonbroadway.com/ (official North American website), http://bookofmormonlondon.com/home.php (official London website), http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=488720 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.facebook.com/TheBookOfMormonOnBroadway (Facebook page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Book_of_Mormon_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia.
Original Broadway Cast Recording: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqVzjnENlgA (fan page).
Trey Parker (music, lyrics, and book): http://www.southparkstudios.com/fans/behind/creator-bios (official “South Park” bio) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trey_Parker (Wikipedia.
Robert Lopez (music, lyrics, and book): (official website), https://www.facebook.com/bobbylopez1 (Facebook page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Lopez (Wikipedia.
Matt Stone (music, lyrics, and book): http://www.southparkstudios.com/fans/behind/creator-bios (official “South Park” bio) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matt_Stone (Wikipedia).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.