Above, from left: Monica L. Patton as a villager, Kevin Clay as Elder Price and Conner Peirson as Elder Cunningham. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.
Seven years after recalibrating Broadway’s funny bone,
The Book of Mormon maintains its popularity and edge
and proves it has serious staying power.
“The Book of Mormon” runs July 17-22 at the Fox Theatre. Details, tickets HERE or at 855.285.8499.
IT’S BEEN SEVEN YEARS since The Book of Mormon opened on Broadway and 2½ years since its missionaries tap-danced their way into the Fox Theatre.
In that span, the careers of many original Mormons have taken off. Tony nominees Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad (the original Elders Price and Cunningham), composer Robert Lopez (Frozen) and director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw (Mean Girls, The Drowsy Chaperone, The Prom) have all become go-to guys in New York and beyond.
Rannells, a two-time Tony nominee, is on Broadway in the limited run of the landmark gay drama The Boys in the Band. Since Mormon, he played King George in Hamilton and Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch and made his mark on HBO’s Girls, playing Elijah Krantz, an ex of creator Lena Dunham’s Hannah.
Gad has voiced the role of Olaf in the Frozen movie and was LeFou in Disney’s live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. He’s attached as a writer of a possible Gilligan’s Island movie and rumored to be the top choice for Seymour in a Little Shop of Horrors movie remake. And he’s pitching himself to play the Penguin in the Batman film franchise.
But that was then. This is now. We’re pretty familiar with those smiling, doorbell-ringing lads and their snappy waves as they sing, “Hello!” We also know that Elder Price won’t be dispatched to Orlando and will, instead, go to an AIDS-stricken village in Uganda. So, why do we keep coming back?
“It’s the laughter,” says Ron Bohmer, who has toured with the award-wining musical for 3½ years, longer than just about anyone. “We need to laugh. But a really good time in life is pretty rare. If we can get the chance to have that really good time all over again, then we want to. You can’t relive your wedding day, except maybe by watching the video. But you can buy a ticket to this show and have that laugh-out-loud experience again.”
Bohmer, who plays the Missionary Training Center Voice, Elder Price’s dad, Joseph Smith and a mission president, is a 56-year-old journeyman actor on and off Broadway. So, his words carry some weight.
The show’s comedy produces “huge tears through laughter,” he says. “It’s like a drug you can’t buy. It sends us all out into life with a positive feeling.”
Mormon, created by Lopez and South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone, lampoons its fair share of atrocities which, in the wrong hands, could be far less funny. When it opened, Vogue magazine called the show “the filthiest, most offensive and — surprise — the sweetest thing you’ll see on Broadway … and quite possibly the funniest musical ever.”
The show has its naysayers but has proved overwhelmingly popular, having grossed more than $500 million to date and still plays to overflow houses in New York and on tour. It also has companies traveling in Australia, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
Mormon’s creative team “put something together that’s truly incredible,” Bohmer says. “I just want to stay out of the way of the script — there’s nothing to fix. It’s just, ‘deliver the mail’ ’cause the mail is so good.
“The beauty of the show is that it never insults in any way,” Bohmer says. “It never says, ‘Look how stupid or goofy these boys are.’”
Even Mormons have proved relatively accepting. The Church of Latter-day Saints regularly buys ads in the Broadway Playbill and other theater programs, saying: “You’ve Seen the Play … Now Read the Book,” using the spoofy show to attract potential converts.
Bohmer has played the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera and Enjolras in Les Miserables at points in his career, so he’s seen some long runs. That doesn’t negate his gratitude for Mormon. “This is the first time in a long time that I’ve been in a show with this kind of legs,” he says. “I’m lucky, I’m treated very well, and I don’t take it for granted.”
The show triumphs, he believes, because its heart is as big as its humor is daring. “It celebrates the goodness of humanity and the value of faith and religion. I think it tries to tell us that no matter what you believe, faith is important, but faith is here to serve you. Faith should make it easier for us to get through the day.”
This show, he adds, “just keeps telling you the truth without telling you what to think about it. It lets you make your own decisions.”
To that we say, “Hasa Diga Eebowai.”