Review: “The Book of Mormon”
In addition to the swarms of ACL fans descending on Austin for the next two weeks, we’re also being invaded — by the nicest army you’ll ever meet.
The Broadway sensation “The Book of Mormon” is finally making its debut in Austin thanks to Broadway Across America and Texas Performing Arts. Although it’s here for a lengthy run (through Oct. 13), for the shows that aren’t already sold out, tickets are going fast — which honestly may be more about the hype than the quality of the show itself.
A byproduct of “South Park” co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone teaming up with Robert Lopez (co-composer of the much smarter “Avenue Q”), “The Book of Mormon” is just as raunchy and offensive as one ought to expect. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that a song about salvation turns into an extended sexual innuendo and that one character’s primary contribution is the repetition of a refrain involving an insect-infested body part.
The premise of the show is pretty simple: The charming and handsome star missionary Elder Price (Mark Evans) is paired with the awkward and bumbling Elder Cunningham (Christopher John O’Neill), and the two are sent off to Uganda. And, of course (because this is Parker and Stone), the young missionaries end up in an AIDS-ridden African slum that in no way lives up to their Disney-based fantasies of African life.
With a lot of cheap and predictable laugh lines, the show nevertheless provides a fair number of catchy songs and delightful dance numbers — particularly those involving the guileless groups of missionaries at home and abroad. Although it doesn’t offer the typical Broadway opportunities for spectacular set pieces or glitzy costumes, the production designers manage to sneak in a few sequins and one or two nice moments of stage magic.
As the endearing African ingénue Nabulungi, Samantha Marie Ware gets several opportunities to showcase the loveliest voice in the show. And as the dysfunctional duo, Evans and O’Neill have excellent mismatched chemistry and comedic timing. The production does get a lot of humor from the facial expressions of the cast, though, so you’ll want to bring your binoculars if you’re sitting in the balcony.
Foul-mouthed and adolescent in its sense of humor, “The Book of Mormon” is nonetheless a fascinating cultural phenomenon. As much as it pokes fun at Mormonism and thrusts potty humor where it doesn’t normally belong, the surprisingly charming finale ends up portraying Mormons as genuinely caring and compassionate people (albeit a bit naïve).
“The Book of Mormon”
When: Through Oct. 13
Where: Bass Concert Hall, UT campus, 2450 Robert Dedman Dr.
Tickets: $39 to $139. A number of limited view seats and single seats are available for several performances
Note: The show contains explicit language.
Ticket lottery: A limited number of low-price $25 tickets to each show via a day-of-show lottery. Lottery entries will be accepted at the Bass Concert Hall box office beginning two and a half hours prior to each performance. Individuals are elegible for only two tickets. Two hours before curtain, names will be drawn at random.