Appearing at the Benedum Center, the current tour features a young cast: two of the principals, Christopher John O'Neill (Elder Cunningham) and Grey Henson (Elder McKinley), are making their professional debut. And it confirms to those of us who follow college musical theatre that the pool of young talent is ready for such exposure. Along with O'Neill and Henson, Mark Evans (Elder Price) and Samantha Marie Ware (Nabulungi) are able to carry this huge show quite proficiently.
The story of two young members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who are challenged by the a mission assignment in Uganda, The Book of Mormon is also a CliffsNotes/comic book guide to Mormonism, presented within the satirical, cynical, irreverent, ironic and R-rated milieu of Parker and Stone. The show is packed with original and clever humor, through the dialogue and the lyrics, as well as the staging and even the orchestrations. It's all pretty damn funny. Yet there is a heart to the show that prevents it from being mean spirited or making you squirm. What is really lampooned here are all religions, all faithsin fact, it's what people believe in that is examined and found useful, in a slightly twisted way. That's my takethe structure of the show allows for various interpretations of what the team is saying here.
The touring production is successful in so many ways. Scott Pask's Broadway scenic design is recreated at a very high level of detail, Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker's direction translates well, and Nicholaw's brilliant choreography feels fresh. What stands out the most, compared to other tours and even Broadway productions, is that every lyric is clear and discerniblecredit to the performers, the lyricist, the directors and sound designer Brian Ronan. There are a lot of songs, and a lot of humor is found in the careful structure of the lyrics. It's sometimes beneficial to go into a show knowing the songs because the lyrics can be lost, but not here. Also easily heard are the musical bons mots provided by Larry Ochman and Stephen Oremus' orchestrations, which combine with the homages written in the score (listen for tips to Wicked, The Lion King and The Sound of Musicand I swear the beginning of "Tomorrow Is a Latter Day" sounds like a Teddy Ruxpin song) to add depth to the show.
The Book of Mormon continues at the Benedum Center through April 7. or tickets and performance information, visit Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. For more information on the tour visit www.bookofmormonbroadway.com/tour_page.php.