Review of the Book of Mormon on Broadway

Question – What do you get when you combine the creative team from South Park with the musical genius from Avenue Q?

Answer – One of the funniest musicals ever to play on a Broadway stage!

The Book of Mormon is a hilarious spoof on Mormonism and organized religion in general. The Broadway show follows a pair of mismatched Mormon boys, Elder Cunningham and Elder Price, sent on a mission to Uganda, Africa. The portly and dim-witted Cunningham has never actually read the Book of Mormon and is far more interested in Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings.  Price, on the other hand, is a devout, good-looking Mormon with dreams of moving to Orlando.

Once in Africa, the boys are confronted with the fact that the villagers will not easily convert to Mormonism.  After numerous road blocks such as AIDS, warlords and maggots, Cunningham surprisingly manages to convert the villagers by combining a little bit of Mormonism with a lot of made up stories that actually relate to the villagers problems.

No doubt, those in the audience who are devoutly religious might be offended.  The show consists of adult material and is a far cry from traditional musicals like The Sound of Music or The King and I.  But the story line by Matt Stone and Trey Parker is great, the jokes are hysterical and the music by Robert Lopez is memorable.  The Book of Mormon is a must-see if you are in the New York area.

Josh Gad delightfully portrays the doofus and hero of the show, Elder Cunningham.  His comic timing and vocal range are truly impressive.  Andrew Rannels plays a convincing  ‘Mr. Perfect’ in Elder Price.  Nikki James is blissful as Nabulungi, the beautiful African villager who idealizes Salt Lake City.

Highlights of Act I include the hilarious duet by Cunningham and Price “You and Me (But Mostly Me)” and the song sung by the villagers “Hasa Diga Eebowai” translated literally as “Fuck you, God”.  But the funniest song of Act I, “Turn it Off”, is sung by the closeted Mormon homosexual, Elder McKinley.

In Act II, the “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” shows off the worst fears a Mormon could have: including the devil, dancing Starbucks cups and rampant homosexuality.  Later on, Cunningham and Nabulungi sing the uptempo, erotic duet “Baptize Me”.

Tickets to The Book of Mormon are currently hard to come by. No doubt, this is currently the best musical playing on Broadway.  But if you are lucky enough to see the show, be prepared to laugh.

The Book of Mormon is currently playing at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre at 230 West 49th Street in New York City.

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World Premiere of The North Pool is a Hit

I recently had the joy of witnessing the world premiere of an astoundingly good play by Rajiv Joseph, The North Pool.Taking place in a seemingly typical American public high school, the play consists of two characters: an over-worked Vice Principal, Dr. Danielson, and an Arabic student, Khadim Asmaan. Khadim is the child of diplomats and has lived all over the world. He recently enrolled in the public high school after leaving an elite local private school. On the afternoon before Spring Break, he is called into Dr. Danielson’s office for a one-on-one meeting.

Danielson, by all appearances, is a dedicated education professional. At first, it is unclear why Khadim was called into his office. But bit by bit, Danielson reveals that he knows about sordid details of Khadim’s past and present; including Khadim’s management of an underground business selling black market goods and involvement in the recent suicide of a local girl. Meanwhile, Khadim also has done his research on Dr. Danielson’s past.

North Pool at Theatreworks

North Pool at TheatreWorks

The play is riveting and constantly moves in unexpected directions.  It captures the essence of contemporary high school life, political correctness, morality and the legacy of teen suicide. In the end, the play is about forgiveness and living with unresolved issues.

The author, Ohio native Rajiv Joseph, is one of the hottest new playwrights in the theatre world.  After receiving his BA in Creative Writing from Miami University, Joseph joined the Peace Corps where he was sent to a village in Muslim Senegal.  Due to this experience, Joseph became fascinated with the anti-Muslim sentiment that has swept American since 9/11.  Another of his play’s that touches upon Muslim issues, Bengal Tiger and the Baghdad Zoo, recently opened to rave reviews on Broadway.

Adam Poss is simply amazing as the Arabic student, Khadim.  His mastery of various dialects and transformation from a simple foreign student to a diabolical mastermind is truly amazing.

Remi Sandri is perfect at the Vice Principal, Dr. Danielson.  He is purely believable as the overworked, underpaid, and caring Vice Principal.

The entire play consists only of one giant scene with the two characters sparring back and forth. Both Mr. Poss and Mr. Sandri are to be commended.

The host theatre company, TheatreWorks of Palo Alto, California also deserves praise. Founded, in 1970, the company has become one of the most important birthplaces of new artistic works.  In fact, TheatreWorks has produced 53 world premieres including last year’s Tony Winning musical, Memphis.  I would not be surprised at all if The North Pool also makes it to Broadway.

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Eleven New Musicals for 2011 Broadway Season

My hat goes off to Broadway and its’ producers this year for taking the exciting risk of putting on 11 new musicals for the 2011 season. This is in stark comparison to a 2009-2010 season that only gave us 2 new musicals. Other recent years have been filled primarily with juke box musicals and regurgitated proven hits.

This is a perfectly fine strategy for community theaters. However, given its influence on worldwide stage performances, Broadway should be the incubator for great new works.

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Apollo Amateur Night Auditions Coming to Atlanta

The world famous Apollo Theater is traveling to Atlanta, Georgia to seek talent for its 2011 season of Amateur Night at the Apollo. The audition will take place on Saturday, October 16 at 10AM and is open to

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Guys and Dolls on top of a Mountain

Recently, I had the pleasure of experiencing one of the most unique theatrical events in the country, the Mountain Play in Marin County, California. A Broadway classic, Guys and Dolls, marked its return to the Mountain Play after last being seen here in 1995.

An annual event, the Mountain Play’s thousands of patrons come from all over the greater Bay Area and beyond.

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2010 Tony Award Winners

In case you missed it, the 2010 Tony Award winners were announced a few weeks ago. For better or worse, movie stars took many of the plumb awards. For example, Denzel Washington won Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play for his work in Fences, Catherine Zeta-Jones won Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for her performance in A Little Night Music and Scarlett Johansson won Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play for showing her acting chops in A View from the Bridge.

Here is the complete list of winners: Continue reading

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2010 Tony Award Nominations

The 2010 Tony Award Nominations have been announced! Here is the list of nominees:

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The Audition Journey

I recently had the joy (and pain) of auditioning for one of my favorite musicals of all time: Rent. Since the rights to perform Rent opened up recently, hundreds of community theatres have taken up the challenge to put on Jonathan Larson’s masterpiece.

The audition took place at a semi-pro community theatre 5-minutes from my house in Northern California. It seemed like the perfect opportunity.  It had been a few years since I had auditioned for a Broadway musical, so I was nervous.  I had spent the past few years performing in Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and focusing on my day job as a Marketing Manager.  Would I have a chance to be accepted back into the musical theatre community? Continue reading

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Tips on Maintaining Good Vocal Health

Just like an athlete who stays in shape, performers need to ensure that their voice is in tip-top shape at all times.All actors should establish and maintain excellent voice care habits.Following are tips on how to maintain good vocal health. Continue reading

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Phantom of the Opera Sequel

The Phantom of the Opera sequel titled “Phantom: Love Never Dies” is soon to become a reality. The show is scheduled to premier at London’s Adelphi Theater on March 9, 2010 and then opens in New York on November 11 and in Australia in 2011. An opening in Shanghai, China is also in the works which would be groundbreaking for Broadways’s push into the China market. Continue reading

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