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The Book of Mormon at the Durham Performing Arts Center Is One Hell of a Good Time, South Park-Style

The Second National Tour of The Book of Mormon stars David Larsen (center) and Cody Jamison Strand as Elder Price and Elder Cunningham and Monica L. Patton as one of the natives whom they are trying to convert (photo by Joan Marcus)

David Larsen (center) and Cody Jamison Strand star as Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, and Monica L. Patton plays one of the natives whom they are trying to convert (photo by Joan Marcus)

In 2011, the New York theater scene was overrun with the blonde-haired, blue-eyed boys of God. South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, along with pre-Frozen-fame Robert Lopez (Avenue Q: The Musical), created a musical sensation in The Book of Mormon. It’s currently in residence in the Durham Performing Arts Center through Jan. 10th.

The Book of Mormon tells the story of Elder Price (David Larsen), a young, bright-eyed Mormon on the brink of his first Mission. He’s paired with Elder Cunningham (Cody Jamison Strand), a sloppy, awkward boy who (we learn) actually hasn’t read The Book of Mormon — a plot device that comes in handy later. The two are sent to Uganda, where the church has had little advancement in recruiting new members … but that’s all about to change. Sort of.

If you’re not familiar with Stone and Parker’s work, you may not be prepared for the irreverent, outlandish, in-your-face style, of which the two are masters. The show has a fair amount of sensitive subject matter; it crosses lines and pushes envelopes. It’s full of abrasive language and offensive material. It’s a show that epitomizes the phrase, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.”

But The Book of Mormon is one hell of a good time, because beneath the offensive language and the abrasive material is a story with a lot of heart. It’s a story about friendship, love, commitment to faith, and understanding one’s self and where you may fit in the world. Plus, The Book of Mormon has got incredibly catchy music and is laugh-out-loud funny.

David Larsen stars as Elder Price in the Second National Tour of The Book of Mormon (photo by Joan Marcus)

David Larsen stars as Elder Price in The Book of Mormon (photo by Joan Marcus)

David Larsen fully embodies the doe-eyed innocence of Elder Price. He’s got major pipes, and he sounds great. Cody Jamison Stroud is his perfect foil; fully in his body, he flails and flops around the stage, able to elicit laughs with just a look or a sound.

Candace Quarrels, who plays Nabulungi, a young Ugandan woman who becomes a love interest of sorts to Elder Cunningham, rounds out the lead trio. Quarrels has a sweet presence, and her voice gives you chills. Her reprise of “Hasa Diga Eebowai” (maybe you shouldn’t Google that phrase) sent chills and knocked me back in my seat.

The ensemble was tight; and the show really moved, even though the script does get a bit long at points. If you’re able to open up, to be willing to find the humor in it, The Book of Mormon is a show to see. It’s not for the faint of heart or the conservative of mind; but if you allow yourself to laugh, I think you’ll have a memorable night at the theater.

Cody Jamison Strand (center) stars as Elder Cunningham in the National Tour of The Book of Mormon (photo by Joan Marcus)

Cody Jamison Strand (center) stars as Elder Cunningham in the Second National Tour of The Book of Mormon (photo by Joan Marcus)

SECOND OPINION: Dec. 31st Raleigh, NC Broadwayworld.com Raleigh review by Jeffrey Kare: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Review-THE-BOOK-OF-MORMON-National-Tour-at-Durham-Performing-Arts-Center-20151231 and Dec. 22nd interview with Candace Quarells, conducted by Jeffrey Kare: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-TV-Candace-Quarells-of-THE-BOOK-OF-MORMON-National-Tour-20151222; Dec. 31st Durham, NC Herald-Sun review by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/review-book-of-mormon-is-back-and-funny-as-ever/article_3b15dcb0-af7c-11e5-a4a6-1b9445bbaf31.html and Dec. 24th preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/big-break-book-of-mormon-elder-gets-the-gig-heads/article_55599226-a908-11e5-8c7c-6335294a5d92.html (Note: You must subscribe to read these articles); Dec. 23rd Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/the-book-of-mormon/Event?oid=4875635.

The Durham Performing Arts Center presents THE BOOK OF MORMON at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 29-31, 8 p.m. Jan. 1, 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 2, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Jan. 3, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 5-7, 8 p.m. Jan. 8, 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 9, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Jan. 10 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.

TICKETS: $39-$170. Click here for DPAC Special Offers.

BOX OFFICE:

DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), tickets@DPACnc.com, or http://www.DPACnc.com/events-tickets/where-to-buy.

Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1732682.

GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.DPACnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.

SHOW: http://www.DPACnc.com/events/detail/the-book-of-mormon-1 and https://www.facebook.com/events/1513944522237538/.

VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ah74ep_kdg.

THE TOUR: http://bookofmormonbroadway.com/second-national-tour, http://ibdb.com/Production/View/499334, https://www.facebook.com/BookofMormonMusicalTour, and https://twitter.com/BookMormonTour.

DPAC NEWS RELEASE: http://www.DPACnc.com/news/detail/the-book-of-mormon-on-sale-september-12.

PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.DPACnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center.

DIRECTIONS: http://www.DPACnc.com/plan_your_visit/getting_here.

PARKING: http://www.DPACnc.com/plan_your_visit/parking_guide.

NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 29th, performance.

OTHER LINKS:

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.

Trey Parker (co-director and music, lyrics, and book): http://bookofmormonbroadway.com/second-national-tour (tour bio), http://www.southparkstudios.com/fans/behind/creator-bios (official “South Park” bio), http://ibdb.com/Person/View/488723 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0005295/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trey_Parker (Wikipedia).

Robert Lopez (music, lyrics, and book): http://bookofmormonbroadway.com/second-national-tour (tour bio), http://ibdb.com/Person/View/109408 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0520188/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://www.facebook.com/bobbylopez1 (Facebook page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Lopez (Wikipedia.

Matt Stone (music, lyrics, and book): http://bookofmormonbroadway.com/second-national-tour (tour bio), http://www.southparkstudios.com/fans/behind/creator-bios (official “South Park” bio), http://ibdb.com/Person/View/488722 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001778/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matt_Stone (Wikipedia).

Daxton Bloomquist (actor who plays Elder McKinley): http://bookofmormonbroadway.com/second-national-tour (tour bio), http://ibdb.com/Person/View/496892 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm6227436/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://twitter.com/daxbloomquist (Twitter page).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Jesse R. Gephart is a Raleigh, NC-based actor, director, and reviewer. A Gainesville, FL native, he earned a degree in Theatre Performance in 2005 from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. 2015 was a busy year for Gephart. From Feb. 20th to March 1st, he directed and starred in Mortall Coile Theatre Company’s presentation of British playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell’s first play, The Pride. He directed Raleigh Little Theatre’s May 1-14 production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. From Oct. 15th to Nov. 1st, Gephart starred as Frank ‘N’ Furter in the City Stage Co.’s rollicking rendition of The Rocky Horror Show; and on Dec. 11-13 and 18-20, he reprised his critically acclaimed performance as David/Crumpet in Theatre in the Park’s presentation of The SantaLand Diaries. To read more of Jesse Gephart’s reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/jesse-r-gephart/.)

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Lead Story, Reviews