THE BOOK OF MORMON (Forrest Theatre): Grumpy Professor review

Phyre Hawkins, Mark Evans, Christopher John O'Neill THE BOOK OF MORMON First National Tour © Joan Marcus, 2013
Phyre Hawkins, Mark Evans, Christopher John O’Neill in THE BOOK OF MORMON First National Tour Photo credit: © Joan Marcus, 2013

No one should think that national companies of Broadway shows are watered down, on-the-cheap, productions. This was proved by the great production of THE BOOK OF MORMON at the Forrest and other musicals played at the Academy this past season. BOOK has a cast of 36 and a traveling production staff of 30 and an orchestra of 18. You can see why it won those many Tony’s four years ago: the acting, costumes, sets, choreography, and orchestra are all very good. The songs, mostly by Robert Lopez (Frozen) were mostly tuneful. A few were powerful, but none could be taken out of the context of the show.

Every ticket had on it “Parental Advisory: Explicit Language”, but I did not find the obscenities to be too offensive. The show also did a good job of presenting the Mormon faith and all its oddities; those who are not familiar with that religion might think it was ridiculous and funny: John Smith, Brigham Young, the Angel Maroni, the lost golden tablets and Jesus himself are presented in a not-too-disrespectful way. Though ridiculous, one might admire the Mormons for really believing and practicing their religion and their completely honest behavior. There is a positive conclusion of the show favoring the Mormons. There were critical messages in the play denouncing AIDS, female mutilation, child rape, rampant warlords that are the real problems of Uganda.

Mark Evans THE BOOK OF MORMON First National Tour © Joan Marcus, 2013
Mark Evans THE BOOK OF MORMON First National Tour Photo credit: © Joan Marcus, 2013

I have directed 21 non-professional Broadway musicals, and I found that an all-male number with a fast dancing chorus always took down the house. Well, this show had at least ten of these delightful fast-dancing, all-male numbers. A lot of the material in the show was derivative: the male lead (like How to Succeed) African numbers (like The Lion King) the Africans put on a little show (like King and I) fast chorus dancing (like Hairspray). But it had the best depiction of hell I have ever seen in a great production number.

THE BOOK OF MORMON at the Forrest is a very expensive production, justifying the base price of $103. It will travel to hundreds of venues and possibly overseas. MORMON won’t go into the list of great Broadway musicals, but it is worth seeing. [Forrest Theatre ] July 29–September 14, 2014;

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