The Book of Mormon Delights

Book of Mormon Tour

Book of Mormon Tour

New York City. It’s a mere three hours away, you can get there by train, or a drive down the Tappan Zee. Even with all of that it’s tough to get to New York City! We’re so close, yet so far. And I have wanted to make it to the great White Way to see The Book of Mormon since I read that Trey Parker and Matt Stone had written a Broadway show. (And of course Robert Lopez, but he didn’t really become a household name in my home until Frozen became the movie of the century.) The great thing about having the Providence Performing Arts Center in our backyard is that we not only get a chance to see these productions, but they are quality productions that bring Broadway to us.

The Book of Mormon is funny, actually scratch that, it is hysterical. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t have its touching moments, in all honestly this musical has it all — great choreography, comedy, social commentary, singing — not to mention some terrific pop culture mentions. I have to admit I’m a sucker for a good pop culture reference, and there were quite a few in this play.

When you see a professional show, it becomes difficult to pinpoint your favorite performers. The ensemble really truly performs as a supporting cast — they aren’t simply background performers, they are on this journey to tell a story, whether it is in Uganda or a spooky Mormon hell dream. Their voices were wonderful together, and although the lyrics often have you holding your sides with laughter, the sounds emanating from the stage are amazing.

Elder Price (David Larsen) is hoping that all of his prayers will be answered and will be placed in Orlando, Florida, for his LD mission. Instead, he and Elder Cunningham (Cody Jamison Strand) are sent to Uganda. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot and spoil it for you, but let’s just say that with this odd couple pairing, hilarity, songs are sung, Darth Vader appears and middle fingers are on display. Larsen has an impressive resume, and it’s so great that this show rolled through town so we can witness his performance. His voice is one made for Broadway soundtracks. Strand is on tour after playing the role on Broadway. His characterization is sound, and he carries out many of the funny moments of the show. His role doesn’t allow for a real musical showcase, however “Baptize Me,” a duet he shares with Candace Quarrels is a highlight of Act 2.

The most impressive performance of the night is hands down, without a doubt, Candace Quarrles’ portrayal of Nabulungi, the Ugandan woman who wants to travel to paradise, also known as Salt Lake City. This is her first tour, and her first major job. Her credits still list her as a college student. I had to check the playbill twice to make sure I read that right. Her voice is simply divine, and in fact her reprise of “Hasa Diga Eebowai” was one of the most beautiful moments of the evening. She has a wonderful career ahead of her, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for her!

Daxton Bloomquist’s portrayal of Elder McKinley, the district leader who represses his homosexual thoughts, is multilayered. With Bloomquist, this doesn’t become just another supporting role for laughs; he plays the part so that you recognize and feel for McKinley’s struggle.

This show does not do what many people thought it would — blatantly mock a religion. Although the script does poke fun at the Mormon religion, it shows the humanity that is within all religions. The need to find a reason why we’re here, a reason for salvation, a reason to above all choose love. I realize as I type this, how cheesy this sounds, but go with me on this. Go with an open heart. I promise you, you will leave the theater with a smile on your lips. And I feel the need to mention that although this is a great show, it is by no means a family show. Although the satire is well written, at times the language and content is too much for younger ears.

Occasionally, the shows at PPAC have a raffle or rush tickets. It’s not something they know ahead of time, however for this show there is a $25 lottery for seats. In lieu of coming up to the box office the day of the show to get seats, patrons can place their name on a sheet of paper two and a half hours prior to each performance, to see if they will be randomly chosen for $25 seats. You have to be back at the theater two hours before curtain to see if you are one of the chosen ones. This is a show you cannot miss!  I missed it last year, and after seeing it this year, I am kicking myself that it’s taken me so long to see it.  Again, another example of how vital our arts community is in Rhode Island; this is a Broadway quality show that you don’t have to commute for.

Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 401-421-ARTS (2778) or by going online at www.ppacri.org.

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