Friday, May 13, 2016

The Book of Mormon - Touring show at The Orpheum - Guest Post

Candace Quarrels and Cody Jamison Strand
Photo by Joan Marcus
If anyone at The Book of Mormon (showing now until May 29th at the Orpheum) didn’t already know they were attending an evening of cutting satire, “filthy gags” and an irreverent takedown of organized religion, they were quickly informed. But I can’t imagine that anyone there didn’t know at least a little of what to expect. The Book of Mormon opened on Broadway in 2011 (is still playing) and this is its third run in Minneapolis so it’s no secret who the intended audience is (and is not). The young hipsters, forty-something professionals and cool seniors who filled the diverse audience had already been exposed to almost two decades of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s South Park and did not seem put off or surprised by this Broadway version of their particularly biting sermon. The sharply talented, energetic cast was ready to preach to the choir. The choir was very appreciative of their efforts.

The show is damn funny and wonderfully performed. Ryan Bondy and Cody Jamison Strand effortlessly lead the cast through sharp choreography, biting humor and catchy songs referencing both the traditional Broadway and African music. The set is bright and beautiful and the actors have fun breaking the fourth wall, playing for laughs and taking everything to the nth degree. Candace Quarrels shines as the innocent and naïve Nabulungi.

Monica L. Patton, Ryan Bondy, Cody Jamison Strand
Photo by Joan Marcus
The story follows two mismatched missionaries, the self-focused and self-righteous Elder Price (Bondy) and the bumbling but sweet Elder Cunningham (Strand) in a classic Odd Couple buddy pairing. The young missionaries leave Salt Lake City with dreams that their two year mission abroad will end in a slew of successful baptisms into the Mormon faith. They quickly discover that the simple platitudes of the "word" and their naive hopefulness are no match for the violence and despair of the villagers in Uganda.

The Book of Mormon Company 2;
Photo by Joan Marcus
With the constant threats of genital mutilation, a population that’s 80% HIV+, maggot infested scrotums, raping babies, screwing frogs, gun violence, etc., the show pulls no punches about the reality of life and the ridiculous notion that simply believing in a particular religion can cure such massive problems. But as my companion said, “It’s offensive, but you don’t take offense.” There is a big and very important message in The Book of Mormon about the danger in blindly following the church - any church - without question, faith versus religion, growth, acceptance, and breaking the rules to do what you know is right.

In short, see this show. It’ll be good for your soul. It is also good for your wallet as there is a lottery for $25 tickets for most performances.

(guest post written by Michelle St. Hilaire)