Broadway Review: The Book of Mormon
This review is super extra special because not only is it my first Broadway show I've seen, but one of my favorite humans in the world, whom I went to college with and had the pleasure of being involved in the theatre department, who is currently the standby for Elder Cunningham, got his Broadway stage debut this weekend. Like the proud friend I am, I was so happy to be able to witness my friend Conner perform his heart out onstage!
On Saturday night he texted me an hour before curtain to tell me he was going on! After six months of waiting patiently, he finally got his chance to play the part that he was totally born to do! I was unable to go that last minute, but thankfully he was able to do both of the Sunday performances too, so I got in the standing room only (SRO) line at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre and purchased my ticket to support my crazy talented friend.
Now, it may seem pointless to review a show that has been on for the last four years, but having never seen the show, and it being my first Broadway experience, I thought that I should definitely talk about my wonderful and enjoyable 2.5 hours in this performance. I knew the basic story before going in, as well as had heard some of the music before, but I was totally unprepared for everything I saw today, which is a good thing.
This musical is not for the easily offended, obviously. It was written by the creators of South Park, which should be the first indication to any unknowing Broadway-goer that this show is meant to shock and surprise its viewers with a social commentary on Mormonism, as well as the idea of the "white savior complex," which goes along with any white individual going to a underprivileged country and taking the role of helper and protector, when the people most likely didn't need their help in the first place.
Gavin Creel, who plays the lead Elder Price is absolutely fantastic as the straight-laced Mormon boy, ready to make a difference in Uganda (although he'd rather have been sent to Orlando, Florida). At the age of 39, he seriously doesn't look a day over the 19-year-old that he is portraying, and has an amazing tenor belt that all male singers should be jealous of. He originated the West End version of this role, even winning an Olivier award for it, so it makes sense that he's back in America, continuing to play the part with great comic timing.
And my awesome friend Conner was too wonderful as Elder Cunningham, the "best friend" and companion of Elder Price. Having watched Conner perform for the last five years, I was able to definitely see some of his signature Conner-isms put into this role, but with his knockout voice and adorable nerdy vibe, he performed his Broadway debut with finesse and should be so proud of himself for dancing through the nervousness and pressure! I haven't seen any previous productions, so I cannot compare him to other Elder Cunningham's, but he'll be my favorite regardless.
With huge dance numbers, amazing set changes and a beautiful blending of voices from the cast, I was having a really fun time throughout the entire show. Even standing for 2.5 hours in the back was not an issue because it went by so fast and I was thoroughly entertained and charmed by this insane musical. It definitely is one of the funniest shows I've ever seen and has a lot of earworm songs that I've been humming along to in my head since I've left the theatre. I finally get all the hype surrounding this show and understand how it's been playing for 4 years now, while most Broadway shows come and go after a year. For the non-faint-at-heart theatre goers, I completely recommend this show because you'll be cracking up the whole time.
After the show, I stood like a fangirl outside the theatre to get some autographs from the amazingly talented performers, and to my surprise, Conner had put my name on a list, so I was escorted backstage and got to examine the set a little bit while I waited for him to come down. Firstly, the stage is so much smaller than it would seem from out in the audience! I don't understand how they made it look so huge from where I was standing, but that's theatre magic for you I guess. There's a wall backstage called "First or Worst," which is a collection of the performers' either first or worst headshot (which are usually the same). Most of the set pieces are in the air to provide space backstage, and the actors have to travel under the stage to cross, since there's no way to do it upstage. I tried to give Conner the star treatment by giving him flowers and demanding a selfie from this future Tony winner. Someday I will totally be able to say, "I knew him when..."