The Book of Mormon at Broadway In Chicago’s Bank of America Theatre
Review by Darcy Rose Coussens
I love when people get a little dressed up to see a show. People, stop wearing jeans to Broadwa
y in Chicago, especially to The Book of Mormon—this show deserves some respect!
The winner of 9 Tony Awards including Best Musical, it’s a perfect recipe for an enjoyable evening: a solid and talented cast, some fun choreography, the writers of South Park—Trey Parker and Matt Stone, with co-creator of Avenue Q Robert Lopez—and a little education thrown in. Themusical follows two young missionaries as they head to Uganda to convert and baptize some Africans into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Naïve, clean-cut white boys explain the history and vague ideology of the Mormon faith accompanied by kitschy dance moves and a Jesus in a light-up robe (with the same voice from Jesus’ appearances on South Park).
Literally every member of this cast is great. Nic Rouleau excellently leads the show as the young missionary we follow, a Disney-obsessed young man who struggles with his faith once in Africa. Ben Platt steals the show as his hilarious companion, a socially awkward pathological liar. They meet up with other sheltered young men assigned to Uganda and sing a song about suppressing your feelings; the boys wind up tap dancing in sparkly pink vests about refusing to be gay in a fantastic number. The show actually may go a bit overboard at times, like in a dream about “spooky Mormon hell” with a little too much choreography and some weird devil outfits, which make everyone look like zebra-striped lobsters with top hats.
Despite the intentional hokey-ness of it all, however, the young men are earnest and endearing as they attempt to convert the Ugandan village (think an African slum with huts and a dead zebra carcass), which lives under the command of a man with some hefty guns. The Africans aren’t particularly keen on the religion at first, not seeing how it can help them combat AIDS, female mutilation, and other harsh realities the boys aren’t used to facing. They learn that “Africa is nothing like the Lion King,” but stay true to their faith, proclaiming that “Jesus had to man up.”
Probably only these writers could make us laugh at a song that cheerfully scorns God for letting Ugandans suffer horrific terrors and disease. This show pokes fun at many things, including an entire religion, but it manages to remain lighthearted and ultimately uplifting. You may not want to bring your children, due to adult language and some of the material, but trust me—this musical has plenty of heart, and it is bound to keep you laughing.
The Book of Mormon plays at the Bank of America Theatre, 18 West Monroe Street in Chicago until June 2, 2013.
Tickets are $45 to $115; call the Broadway In Chicago ticket line at (312) 977-1710, visit any Broadway In Chicago box office, or visit BroadwayInChicago.com for tickets.
Potted Potter at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place
Starvox Entertainment and Potted Productions’ hit off-Broadway show, hosted by Broadway In Chicago
RecommendedWORK FROM NO HOME
Reviewed by Darcy Rose Coussens
Potted Potter is a hilarious treat for anyone alive during the last decade, packing the seven Harry Potter books into seventy minutes with plenty of silly mishaps and commentary by the dynamic duo, Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner (Dan and Jeff). The many children in the audience, some wearing robes or scarlet and gold scarves, were completely on board from the moment they walked in. In the lobby kids can draw their favorite magical creature and tally which house they would be in at Hogwarts (Gryffindor outnumbers Hufflepuff by about a ratio of 20:1).
If you haven’t read the books or seen the movies by this point, you probably don’t care to know the stories. Granted, you also probably won’t attend this show. It’s largely a huge inside joke for kids and adults alike who know these characters like old friends and have been dying to play quidditch as much as Dan has.
However, the show focuses less on the plots of each book and more on the silly mishaps, costume and accent changes, and commentary on the books by Dan and Jeff. This works well, because the lengthy series has too many complex plot points to cram into such a short time, and it allows anyone with a bit of familiarity with this magical world to enjoy the show.
I appreciate that they only mention the movies once, using the books as a structure for the show. Most of the audience knew the stories already, so Dan and Jeff broke up the sequence with updates about book seven, a few running jokes about the cast size and lack of effects, and quippy banter between the two actors. A large portion of the show was also devoted to a rousing game of quidditch in which the entire audience participated. The two actors included the audience in the magic from their first appearances, and there were plenty of delicious moments when we realized something was improvised. They seem to do a great job of keeping the show fresh throughout their tour, and it shows.
Dan and Jeff understand comedy, kids, and how to be goofy but honest with the audience. They gently mock aspects of the Potter books while celebrating the fun and brilliance of this imaginary world. The stories are condensed to a point where they seem utterly ridiculous, but that’s what is so fun. It also became clear that many of the kids had not read the more difficult and mature last few books, so I was glad to see that it didn’t really spoil anything, taking us through the end at a breakneck pace in a clever song parody.
This show is a huge hit for kids and the rest of the family too, if you can afford it at a range of tickets from $39.95-84.95. Don’t expect a meaningful work of art, but this is solid entertainment that all fans will enjoy. Expect a whirlwind of jokes, puns, audience participation, silly string, hats, accents, pop culture references, and a disco ball. You should also expect to laugh almost constantly for this 70-minute ride through a series that was, for me–and is for many of the young audience members–a huge part of growing up.
“Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff” plays at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut Street, Chicago until December 23.
Call the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775-2000, visit any Broadway In Chicago Box Office, or visit BroadwayInChicago.com for tickets.