Heartfelt, hilarious, exceptionally well-written, seeping with satire, unapologetically offensive, and deserving of all nine Tony Awards it won in 2011, “The Book of Mormon” is, quite frankly, one of the best musicals of the 21st century. With book, music, and lyrics by “South Park” creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and Robert Lopez, the co-producer/co-lyricist of “Avenue Q” and “Frozen,” “The Book of Mormon” is currently on its second national tour since it opened in March 2011. The musical called Atlanta’s The Fox Theatre home for a 12 day, 1- show run featuring Ryan Bondy as Elder Price, Cody Jamison Strand as Elder Cunningham, and Candace Quarrels as Nabulungi from January 12th-24th. Directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker, “The Book of Mormon” is a very vulgar musical, not very family-friendly, but absolutely worth every single penny. The wit, humor, skill, and talent in the musical comes together to make the musical worth your time and money.
The musical follows Elder Price (Ryan Bondy) on his missionary journey that he’s been training for since he was born, but his circumstances are not even remotely what he was hoping they would be. Essentially, he develops his spirituality, sense of friendship, sense of self, appreciation of diversity, and the idea of living in the moment, all through tap dancing, jokes about AIDS and rape, heavy profanity, and a very dynamic, vivid, and brilliant music score.
The January 16, 2015 evening performance at the Fox was impressive, despite a few inconsistencies. The vocal performances were exceptional. The full ensemble pieces were all seemingly seamless and well-rehearsed. The ensemble’s vocal performances were particularly delightful in the opening number, “Hello!,” “Hasa Diga Eebowai,” “I Believe,” and my personal favorite (due to its exciting tap sequence, riveting harmonies and satirical lyrics), “Turn It Off.”
The solo and duet numbers, however, were not as tight as the ensemble pieces. Candace Quarrel’s solo, “Sal Tlay Ka Siti,” was beautiful, however, Quarrel did audibly strain her voice in a few parts, but did managed to hit the difficult notes. In “You and Me (But Mostly Me),” Jamison and Bondy made a very choppy transition into the song and struggled slightly to stay together, both with each other and with the pit. The 11 person pit orchestra, under the direction of David Truskinoff, was beyond phenomenal throughout. The choreography, done by Casey Nicholaw, was generally lacking in difficulty compared to other, larger cast shows. But considering the small cast and general emphasis on vocals and acting, the dancing was solid, but minimal.
Under the stage management of Steve Henry, the technical side was particularly tight. All cues appeared to happen on time. The scenic design, done by Scott Pask, was simply phenomenal, efficient, and definitely supported the suspension of disbelief of the musical while also keeping its satirical nature. The audio, although too low at some spots, was generally consistent, the lighting, designed by Brian MacDevitt, was exceptionally beautiful.
“The Book of Mormon” is definitely a delight and is the best piece of satire I’ve seen in awhile. It also gives teens a reason to return to the theater and break the stigma that youth cannot appreciate musicals. It’s everything you’ve heard about and more, and you won’t understand why people are wholeheartedly singing the lyrics to a song that makes references to domestic violence, cancer, and homosexuality, until you actually see the musical and experience it for yourself.