What does the fantastical kingdom of Arendelle and the podunk town of South Park have in common? The creative minds behind both are responsible for the Tony award winning musical The Book of Mormon! Yes, Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park (and Cannibal! and Team America!) fame worked with the composer/songwriter Robert Lopez (who also is responsible for the musical Avenue Q) to bring us one of the best shows currently on Broadway. What makes it perfect is that it finds the perfect balance between irreverent humor and serious heart,and this is just my opinion from only listening to the original cast recording. How does the US tour with completely new voices stack up, though?
What always worries me with seeing a show that is not starring the original cast is one of two things: either the performance is so different it's grating or, worse, the current performers attempt to imitate what the audience is used to and add nothing of themselves to the characters. I'm happy to say that the current touring cast of Book of Mormon does neither. Mark Evans's frenetic Elder Kevin Price is the perfect compliment to Christopher John O'Neill's ecstatic yet anxious Elder Arnold Cunningham, while Alexandra Ncube's Nabulungi's confidence is a bright spot in her otherwise beaten down village. As any fan of theater knows, though, the main characters are not nearly as entertaining without the reactions of their fellow cast members. When at a show, it's just as important to watch everyone on the stage, not just those who are front and center. My favorites in particular were Jospeh Smith's, played by Ron Bohmer, during the song "Making Things Up Again". The entire cast's handing of the many music styles to be found was admirable, not everyone can go from an overlapping rock number to a ballad detailing misplaced inspirations!
A common worry for any touring show is the possible scaling down of the special effects and staging of the show. I can confidently say that, though I have yet to see it on Broadway, The Book of Mormon US Tour is spectacular on both accounts. Whether it is a scene change from a Utah airport to an impoverished Ugandan village, the depths of a spooky Mormon Hell dream (complete with dancing coffee cups), or to facilitate a costume change for a tap dance about repressing one's emotions, the cast and crew were professionally amazing. What I liked most was much of this involved winking at the fourth wall, with cast members actually interacting with various set pieces.
In the end, whether or not you see this show depends on your interest in it. Seeing "from the creator's of South Park" may scare potential audience members away, for fear of outrageous vulgarity. There is indeed a lot of adult content in the show, but the majority of it only lays at our feet atrocities and anguish present in our reality. The issues of crimes against women and of religious organizations fishing for converts instead of helping those in need from the goodness of their hearts should outage us. What makes this show so good is, despite the darkness of the subject matter, humor is used as a tool to make it approachable and memorable. You might still balk, thinking that based on the title alone that this show mocks the Church of Latter Day Saints, but the creators have only gone as far as to poke fun at the failing of any organized evangelical religion (the aforementioned fishing for converts, for example). As a parting note on this very thing, something that amused me to no end was there were not, one, not two, but THREE advertisements for the actual Book of Mormon in the playbill.