Monday, December 17, 2012

Africa is NOTHING like The Lion King

This is a far cry from my usual posts, but I enjoyed the show so much...I will try not to spoil anything from the show.

I had first learned of The Book of Mormon (the musical) by watching the performance of "I Believe" on the Tony's performed by Andrew Rannells (of NBC's The New Normal). It was a great performance and I started reading about the show and how it was from the creators of South Park. Eventually, Lorelei got me the soundtrack. We would listen to it in the car, even with some bad language, and it all seemed fine because the kids were not picking up on the lyrics. Once Logan asked me if tomorrow would be a latter day, I figured we needed to stop listening in the car. (It could have been a lot worse if you are not familiar with the lyrics).

When I got word that the show was coming to Chicago, I was very excited. We were able to purchase tickets on the first day of sale due to an AmEx member special event. That was in April...before we knew that Lorelei was pregnant. We got the tickets and for almost 9 months, they sat in their envelope connected to a magnet to the fridge. Finally, the day of the show arrived. Lorelei's parents had graciously agreed to babysit the boys and Lorelei and I set out for an adult evening out.
We went to The Italian Village for dinner and after a short 45 minute wait, we had a nice dinner and got to the theatre 15 minutes before curtain.

Our seats were in the Dress Circle, center section, row F. It was a slightly obstructed view due to the overhang of the Mezzanine balcony. The only thing we could not see was the top of the proscenium arch, which did not detract from the show at all. What was a detraction the large head of the person seated in front of us. Combine that with the narrow seats, I got to watch the entire show with the arm around my wife and heads together so we could have a sight line to the stage. If I wanted to see stage right, I had to look around the large head in front of me.

I knew the soundtrack backwards and forwards and there were still surprises for me in the actual performance. The show has so much humor, it is very possible that you will miss some of the great lines in the lyrics and dialogue, but on the flip side, I did not have all of the surprises and laughs because I knew what was coming.

The cast was very strong and the music was terrific. If I had one criticism, it would be that Elder Price (Nic Rouleau) was not portrayed as I had imagined him by listening to the soundtrack (with Andrew Rannells). I had always imagined Elder Price to be someone who truly believed in what he was taught and wanted to really be there to help people. When he is disappointed, I thought that he would still take it in stride. This portrayal seemed to make it once he is disappointed, Elder Price remains self-serving and completely self-centered. As I watched the show, I did not buy into Nic as Elder Price. He has a great singing voice, but there was a connection between the actor, the character, and the audience that I found missing.

Ben Platt plays Elder Cunningham. If you saw Pitch Perfect, you saw Ben play the roommate who desperately wanted to get into an a cappella group and when he finally does, he show everyone how good he is. The role originated with Josh Gad (The Rocker, Love & Other Drugs, and the new NBC comedy about the White House). Ben does a great job portraying the character of Elder Cunningham without trying to imitate Josh Gad. His comedic timing was very good, as was his voice.

The other major stand-out in the cast is Syesha Mercado, who plays Nabulungi. Her bio says that she was second runner-up on American Idol. I am just going to have to believe that as I never watch that show. She has a great voice and works well with the rest of the cast. She was able to easily keep up with the comedic chops of Ben and the rest of the cast.

Aside from the theatre being too hot and the seats being too small (or my rear end being too big), it was a spectacular evening. I left the theatre humming the music (but I also entered the theatre doing that). The show has a lot of comedy. If you are a fan of South Park, you will notice certain elements from the tv show in the musical, as well as from South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut.

I would go see it again.

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