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The Book of Mormon on Broadway

The Broadway production of The Book of Mormon opened at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in March 2011. After years in the making and a final workshop production in the summer of 2010, Producers took the decision to open directly on Broadway rather than off-Broadway or an out of town tryout. This gamble paid off, as the stakes were raised and the venue was booked, the show began to develop excellent word of mouth within the theatre and wider community. The original production was estimated to cost around $11million, but came in under budget at around $9million, and after four weeks of rehearsals, re-writes and re-development opened on March 24 2011 after previews from February 24.

The musical received vast critical praise from almost all reviewers, including the important Ben Brantley of The New York Times who called it “The Musical of the Century”. It became an instant hit, and thanks to an effective marketing campaign continues to be one of the most popular shows on Broadway, playing to full capacity at almost every performance.

BoM Broadway banner

Awards

 

TonyAward2011 TONY AWARDS

BEST MUSICAL – WINNER
BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL – WINNER
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – WINNER
BEST FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL (NIKKI M JAMES) – WINNER
BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL – WINNER
BEST ORCHESTRATIONS – WINNER
BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL – WINNER
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MUSICAL – WINNER
BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A MUSICAL – WINNER
BEST LEADING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL (JOSH GAD, ANDREW RANNELLS)  – NOMINATED
BEST FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL (RORY O’MALLEY) – NOMINATED
BEST CHOREOGRAPHY – NOMINATED
BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL – NOMINATED

 

 

Reviews from Bloggers

POP logo No Tag for online use wBlack background “I decided to see The Book of Mormon musical on a recent trip to Manhattan.  See, I’m a Mormon and former missionary.  So, I was curious. I expected to hate it.  I expected to be offended.  I expected to not be entertained. But you know what disappointed me the most?  I flippin’ * liked it…The performances are superb, if a little over-the-top.  The singing is fantastic and the dancing is wonderful… It’s at one moment sweet and the next shocking.  Amazingly, as edgy and adult as this show is, it is also very tender and thought-provoking.” POPARITAVILLE read more
 Seth  “I can define the experience as nothing short of spiritual. My jaw hit the floor and my eyes popped out of head many times in the way that I’ve come to expect from Matt Stone and Trey Parker (I’ve been watching South Park for 14 years). I expected to cry from laughing so hard. But I didn’t expect to cry from moments of genuine tenderness. The show reminded me why I love my Mormon roots and my unique (if not odd) culture of faith. The music is catchy and clever and I can’t think of one song I didn’t like. All the songs are fantastic but a few stand out as sublime. “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” had me in stitches… I left the theater walking on air.”BOY MEETS BLOG read more
 jerry  “The Book of Mormon is one of the most entertaining shows ever written about the Mormon experience… There is one straight forward, inspiring song called “I Believe,” that brings the house down with laughter because it checks off a long list of Mormon beliefs that outsiders find rather odd even though it is doctrinally accurate… The designers had done their research and I was both flattered and proud…. As the cast joyfully sings in celebration at the end of the play, “Tomorrow is a Latter Day!” Ultimately, it made me proud to be a Mormon.”AFFIRMATION read more
 mail.google.com  The Book of Mormon… has everything an audience in search of some dangerous New York City titillation could ask for—dirty words, blasphemy, violence, Mormons, sexual innuendo, frequently all crammed together into catchy production numbers…The Book of Mormon is, above all else, funny—side-splittingly funny… But the show suffers in other ways. Characters behave in inconsistent ways [and] the violence itself plays more like a blatant attempt to shock than an organic element of the plot…This final message about religion’s palliative effects in a grim world did enable me to leave the theater with a smile on my face, but I still can’t shake my conviction that The Book of Mormon is hardly the flawless gem so many people seem to think it is. WILLIAM SHUNN read more

Critics Reviews

“This is to all the doubters and deniers out there, the ones who say that heaven on Broadway does not exist, that it’s only some myth our ancestors dreamed up. I am here to report that a newborn, old-fashioned, pleasure-giving musical has arrived at the Eugene O’Neill Theater, the kind our grandparents told us left them walking on air if not on water. So hie thee hence, nonbelievers (and believers too), to “The Book of Mormon,” and feast upon its sweetness.”The New York Times
 

“The show is blissfully original, irreverent, outspoken and hilarious. And all that’s tucked inside good — no, great – old-fashioned musical…It’s a show where you catch yourself laughing one minute, mouth agape the next, eventually wiping away tears, and, finally, cheering….This musical spills over with confidence in the material and cast, a roster of relative unknowns. As Elder Price, a nice but narcissistic missionary, Andrew Rannells has wholesome good looks and a whole lot of talent that shines through in every note and gesture.”

The Daily News

  “The show, co-directed by Parker and Casey Nicholaw (who also choreographed what may be the first number with tap-dancing Mormons), is admirably acted by a cast that understands that effective comedy starts with sincerity…”Mormon” is that rare creature that isn’t based on a book or a play or a movie – it came totally out of its creators’ heads. And what they thought up is one of the most purely enjoyable musicals in years.”The Record
  “If you’re surprised to hear that Parker and Stone are responsible for re-energising Broadway’s hopes, you haven’t been following their career. The team have been honing their razzle-dazzle chops over two decades. Their first major effort, Cannibal! The Musical, was filmed in 1993, and, in 1999, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut was aptly (if cheekily) praised as the year’s best new musical. More recently, Team America: World Police paid snarky homage to Rent with the parody ballad “Everybody Has Aids”. These showtune-humming pranksters were destined to mock the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in song – an institution that, like the Broadway musical, is a singularly American invention.”The Guardian

Original Broadway Cast

 

The original production starred Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad as Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, along with Nikki M James as Nabulungi. Standby Jared Gertner took over the headline role of Elder Cunningham, before joining the US tour with Gavin Creel. The pair joined the London production when it opened at the Prince of Wales Theatre in February 2013. Elder McKinley was original played by Rory O’Malley, alongside Michael Potts as Mafala Hatimbi and Brian Tyree Henry as the General.

The original cast recording was released on May 17 2011, and quickly become the fastest-selling Broadway cast album in iTunes history. It went on to become the highest charting Broadway Cast Album in over 40 years after peaking at number 3 on the US Billboard Chat, thanks to the success of the show at the Tony Awards.

Book of Mormon banner Broadway cast

Videos

A Guide to Mormonism

The success of The Book of Mormon on Broadway is undeniable. After winning a record breaking 9 Tony Awards, the show continues to play to packed houses and is one of the best selling shows in New York. A successful US touring version was established and the show has now started a second company in Chicago. With the show ready to open in London’s West End, we thought we should put together a handy guide to Mormonism for UK audiences coming to the show. Although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a worldwide membership of around 14 million people, under 200,000 of these are in the UK. When compared with the USA who at the last official count in a 2010 census had 6.1million followers of the church, making it the 6th most popular religion in the country, you may be right in wondering if the show will have the same meaning to an international audience.

The Mormon presence in the USA is now so strong across the whole country that people of all faiths are aware of the teachings of the Church as it continues to be featured in popular culture. Some Mormons may argue that a positive portrayal of Mormons within the media is still rare, but others would say that at any publicity is good publicity. ‘South Park’ writers Trey Parker and Matt Stone have always pushed the religion to the forefront, even before creating their musical, featuring the religion on the racy cartoon in a number of different ways.  Despite the success of the show on Broadway, we wondered just how much the humour of the show comes from having an understanding of the faith – after all the very nature of parody requires a certain level of understanding about the subject in question, otherwise it is easy for that humour to be lost. With the apparent lack of knowledge about the faith from potential UK fans of the show, we put together a handy guide on Mormonism to help those planning on seeing the show when it opens on February 25th.

What is Mormonism?

The official name of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith, who was believed to be the Prophet of Jesus. The Church’s headquarters is in Salt Lake City, Utah.

What do they believe?

Mormons believe in the Trinity: God the Father, his Son Jesus Christ and in the Holy Ghost. They believe he is immortal and once was a man, and does have a physical body. The prophets are humans who exist to spread the word of God, and the President of the Church is automatically a prophet, just as Joseph Smith was the first voice of God. Not everything they say however comes from God, and “a prophet is only a prophet when acting as such”.

Mormons believe that humans enjoy three stages of life; a pre-existence as spirits, a probation period on earth followed by eternal life with God. Their ultimate aim in life is to achieve exaltation, which is sought through both the grace of God and their own actions whilst on earth. They enter the world without sin and have to take responsibility for their actions by dealing with all of the sins in their life before they can live close to God.

Mormons have very strong, traditional family values. They believe that humans have the capability to become gods in the afterlife, if they follow the strict examples set by the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the later Brigham Young who migrated the church to Salt Lake City. They are opposed to sex before marriage, homosexuality, abortion and pornography, as well as the use of substances such as tobacco, alcohol, tea and coffee. They are encouraged to follow the custom of ‘tithing’ which sees them giving one-tenth of their annual income to the Mormon church.

What is ‘The Book of Mormon’?

The Book of Mormon features at the centre of the Mormon faith and belief and was first published in 1830. It is used alongside The Bible to form much of the teaching of the church. Unlike the Bible, Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon was the correct translation and unaltered world of God, as they believe that the Bible has mistakes and has been deliberately changed.

What is a Mormon Missionary?

Just like Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, all young men who are deemed to be physically and mentally fit are encouraged to serve as missionaries for 2 years from the age of 18. They are sent to convert others to the church and have to face many hardships – the greatest one being remaining strong about their faith in the face of adversity.

A Mormon Perspective on ‘The Book of Mormon’

We recently spoke with Gerald Argetsinger, a Mormon who has seen the show in New York to find out what he thought about the show itself, and how it reflects the Mormon faith as a whole. He gave us an insight on the religion, and how the musical corresponds with the basic beliefs:

Trey Stone, Robert Lopez and Matt Parker succeed, NOT because they have created a “send up” of Mormonism, but because they have created a spot on satire of Mormon missionaries, those clean cut young men in white shirts and ties representing their church. They ask the question, what might happen to those sheltered American white boys, trained in the ways to approach urban peoples around the world, when they confront a population of third world, poverty-stricken individuals who face problems beyond the missionaries’ imaginations.

The Mormon Faith

Joseph Smith

In a nutshell: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Christian Religion. Some fundamentalist Protestants insist on labeling us a “cult,” but we answer by pointing out that we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that the Holy Bible is the foundation of our faith. We also have added another volume of scripture, ‘The Book of Mormon’, which we accept as another witness that Jesus is the Christ.
We believe in a living prophet, the first and second of whom you will meet in the musical: Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of the Mormon Church and Brigham Young the great colonizer of the American West. So Mormonism is neither Catholic nor Protestant in its origins. We believe that we are a “restoration” of the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We offer the world two things: Priesthood authority restored through prophets by heavenly messengers. With that authority we offer the world the “ordinances of salvation:” authorized baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and temple covenants made in Dedicated Houses of the Lord located around the world. The most significant doctrine that we offer is The Plan of Salvation, which we believe offers answer to the questions: Where do we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going after life? Interestingly, Mormons do not believe in a traditional Christian hell. We interpret Christ’s teaching that “In my house are many mansions” and that there will be a heavenly reward for everyone who lives on earth.

Based on the above, the show obviously presents Joseph Smith being called of God to be the founding prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ‘The Book of Mormon’ being added to the Old and New Testaments as canonized scripture, in the sacraments of baptism and the need to “bring the Good Word” to the world. It also humorously points out some of our unique beliefs: that the priesthood of God was not extended to African Blacks until 1978; that God lives on his own world near a sun called Kolob; that greatest sin a missionary can commit is to disobey Mission Rules, and that we believe that the purpose of life is literally to become godlike and acquire the attributes of a loving god.

Response from the Church

A Typical Mormon Church

Some members hate it and some members love it. Generally, Mormons in the Intermountain West have no idea what the show is really like. They just know it is not “orthodox” and so they complain loudly about it. In the eastern U.S., where I live, we are much more open to experiences outside of the traditional Mormon comfort zone. I can’t speak officially for the Church, but at first there seemed to be a nervous “wait and see” attitude. But the show in New York has proven to be an enormous boost for the visibility of the Church. Near Manhattan “name recognition” of the Church has skyrocketed. The distribution of copies of the Book of Mormon have tripled. People everywhere are much more willing to invite real missionaries into their homes. Now that the Church sees the positive impact, they have even begun advertising in the programs of the West coast productions and for the touring production.

Portrayal of Characters

The portrayal of the missionaries could not be better. They get it! The liberties taken with church history also break any stereotype for characters such as Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. And, to be honest, I’ve seen a few mission presidents a little too close for comfort to the one in the show. I even had a gay missionary companion on my own mission.

The best thing about Mormonism is its emphasis on the family. When you get down to the local congregation, the entire work of the church is to help the family to face life’s problems together and struggle to find solutions. We believe that the family is the basic unit of the church and that it is eternal. Mormonism is a family-centred religion that offers the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ including the restored priesthood of God and the ordinances of salvation.

So will the show be as successful in London as it was in New York? Absolutely! You don’t need to know anything about Mormonism. Nevertheless, the more you know, the more you will laugh.

London News

The Book of Mormon has confirmed that it will open at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London’s West End early 2013. The long rumoured transfer of this runaway Broadway success has been on the cards since the show scooped up 9 Tony Awards at last year’s Tony Awards ceremony including Best Musical. The show was expected to arrive in the 2012 season, but conflicts with schedules, the US National Tour and the threat of the Olympic games have pushed the show back into the new year. The production will open for previews from February 25 2013, with an official press night around March 23. Month long preview periods seem to be the norm for Broadway imports, although the format is more suited to brand new musicals such as The Bodyguard and Viva Forever, which have both announced similarly long preview periods. Whilst The Book of Mormon has been playing in New York for over a year,  the extension suggests that the creative team are expecting to tweak the show to suit the quite different British audiences. Much debate has been had over how well the show will fare in the UK, where ‘South Park’ and Mormonism are much less known. The musical is not without its controversies, and features numerous swear words, as well as frequent sex references. The last time such a controversial musical found a home in the West End religious groups picketed outside the theatre and tried to stop people from going to see the Olivier Award Winning ‘Jerry Springer the Opera’. Whether this show will have the same effect remains to be seen.

The Prince of Wales Theatre in the heart of Piccadilly Circus has been home to Mamma Mia! for 8 years. The hit ABBA musical will make it’s way across town to the Novello Theatre as of September, after the London Olympic Games. The Beatles’ concert tribute Let it Be will fill the theatre in the interim, months after the West End waved goodbye to Backbeat – the ‘play with music’ that told the story of the fab four’s rise to fame.

Preview tickets are currently on sale for The Book of Mormon through our Tickets page. For full news and information on the show and to be the first to hear when full tickets go on sale, make sure you sign up for our newsletter on the same page.