The Book of Mormon returns, as fun and offensive as ever
Denèe Benton and Cody Jamison Strand.
Photo by Joan Marcus
As I was killing time at home Thursday night before heading to the Orpheum for The Book of Mormon, I saw that New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley had posted a re-review of the longstanding hit Broadway musical.
In a nutshell: He still loved it. And after Thursday night, I can say that I still love it as well.
The latest touring production (the second visit in 18 months) retains the show's charms and brings some fresh-faced talent to the stage. This includes David Larsen and Cody Jaimson Strand as Elders Price and Cunningham, the youthful Mormons who find themselves out of their depths in war-torn Uganda. Denee Benton is superb as Nabulungi, the villager who dreams of escaping to the paradise of Salt Lake City.
The whole production crackles from beginning to end, with plenty of show-stopping set pieces, a lot of profane humor (the creators are also responsible for South Park, after all), and a score that builds on the great musicals of the past. (A full review will be out in next week's paper.)
An interesting choice made by the New York producers was to not offer press tickets for this run of the show. This isn't unprecedented, but it is extremely rare. The last case I can think of was Ian McKellen and his bare backside in the Royal Shakespeare Company production that visited the Guthrie several years ago.
Free tickets, of course, are one the perks of a job that requires you to work nights and weekends and sit on an array of uncomfortable chairs. Still, it's not like I haven't bought them before, both when reviewing out of town and in the early years when I was essentially writing for peanuts.
I also had City Pages willing to foot the bill for a reasonable ticket. So I dutifully checked out the site, and purchased the second-cheapest seat I could find (even on the aisle!). The listed price would have put it around the highest levels for any locally produced show. The $25 in fees moved it near the top. But at least it was still under $100. (The first time I ever paid $100 for a single bit of live entertainment was to see the original production of Hairspray on Broadway; now it's getting tough to find seats under three digits for the Great White Way.)
That's a lot of money, especially as the top ticket prices (with fees added on) are going to be close to $200 for The Book of Mormon. And it's not just this show. The top prices are going to set a family back quite a bit no matter which one they take in on tour.
Which just gives me more fuel for what I do. The Book of Mormon is great, but not every show that visits the Twin Cities, or that is produced on local stages, works as well. They want our money, either up front in tickets or long term with donations. Giving readers honest opinions about what they will see onstage is my job, and one I am willing to pay to make sure happens (though not too often).
IF YOU GO:
The Book of Mormon Through Sept. 14 Orpheum Theatre 910 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis $49-$154; limited number of $20 lottery seats available for each performance For tickets, information (including rules on the lottery), call 612.339.7007 or visit online.
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