Book of Mormon on Broadway
They knock at your door in crisp white shirts and bright white smiles, ready to tell you about the God that they serve. Either you’ve met one or you are one, but either way you probably won’t recognize real Mormons in their caricatures on stage. As with Jesus Christ Super Star, which makes a mockery of the Christian religion, you can view Book of Mormon in one of two ways: an offensive diatribe with a veneer of humor, or just another comedy created by people with creative license who don’t mind making a little fun of everything and everyone. You’re going to enjoy it a whole lot more if you choose the latter, as I did.
Book of Mormon plays at Eugene O’Neill Theater in Midtown Manhattan, the theatre center of the United States. The Eugene O’Neill Theater has been around for a long time. It was built in 1925 under a different name. Its current name was given to the venue in 1959, after an American playwright. For a while, Neil Simon himself owned the theater! Now, it is owned by Jujamcyn Theaters. Book of Mormon has been playing at the Eugene O’Neill Theater since 2011 and is its highest grossing show of all time.
Ironically enough, an O’Neill also plays one of the leads in Book of Mormon. I’m not sure if Christopher John O’Niell is related to Eugene O’Neill, but he sure did a great job in his role as Elder Cunningham. Elder Price, his counterpart, is played by Nic Rouleau, who has been in the role in many capacities. Nikki Renee Daniels plays Nabulungi, the heroine who saves the day. She’s a pretty big deal—she’s even sung solo at Carnegie Hall. So you know the music is good if someone like that is singing it!
Book of Mormon isn’t actually the story of the Book of Mormon. Although that would be incredibly interesting to see put to music. Rather, it is the story of two mismatched Mormon missionaries who find themselves searching for doorbells in Uganda. Problem is, there are no actual doorbells, and it’s a really long way from the first-world problems of Salt Lake City, Utah. The duo must come up against the unwelcoming village leaders, with a little help from Nabulungi, the chief’s daughter. The play was written by the creators of South Park, so I’m sure you can imagine the sort of humor that is found throughout the play. It’s not exactly for children, but then children don’t generally go to Broadway plays. Before you go, do keep in mind that the writers boast that their insults are equal opportunity. So nobody is safe from offense!
Book of Mormon may not be enjoyable for everyone, but if you can get past the crude humor, the music and acting is actually very good. The fact that such a controversial musical made it so big in New York City is indicative of its high theatrical quality. Book of Mormon may not be politically correct –at all—but it has high artistic quality.