Mark Evans (photo: Joan Marcus)
Thank you God! (Ma ha nei bu, Eebowai!)
Like a Joseph Smith torpedo from the mouth of Christ, The Book of Mormon is an explosion of all that is good in musical theatre
by Stuart Munro@StuartMunroTO
Evans is every bit the polished and perfected missionary out to make the world a better place.
Taking this show along its wild path to success in Toronto are Mark Evans and Christopher John O’Neill as Elders Price and Cunningham, the unlikely pair of Mormon missionaries who find themselves in a Ugandan village completely unlike anything they’ve ever known. Evans is every bit the polished and perfected missionary out to make the world a better place. His bright smile reaches to the upper balcony, and his charmingly over eager dance moves left me in stitches. A talented singer and actor, Mr. Evans joins the company from the UK as part of the American/UK Equity exchange program, and I’m pleased to say that not once did his home accent make an appearance. The standout, however, is Christopher John O’Neill as Elder Cunningham, the follower with no friends. O’Neill’s Cunningham is so sad and lonely and sweet and sincere that at intermission, Dave turned to me and said “I just want to give him a hug and tell him everything’s going to be OK.” A comedian by trade, Mr. O’Neill acquits himself with more than enough skill to prove he belongs on that stage. Especially strong in his 80’s hair band inspired Act I finale, “Man Up,” O’Neill carries most of the show on his shoulders like it’s no big thing (and is impossibly adorable to boot!).
The design of the show is equally as impressive. Scott Pask’s large set pieces effortlessly glide on and off stage helping to create transitions that are quick and seamless, and even provide one or two sight gags. Brian MacDevitt’s lighting design (featuring two disco balls!) effortlessly moves between the realistic and the absurd for the various dream sequences. And Casey Nicholaw’s choreography is a wonderful mix of 50s and 60’s boy group inspired steps for the missionaries during “Two by Two” (and really any other time Elder Price decides to dance) and more traditional African moves for “Hasa Diga Eebowai,” a song built around giving God the finger. The direction by Casey Nicholaw and co-author Trey Parker is always fast-paced, but never frenetic – the show moves quickly, but the audience is never left wondering what’s happening – a delicate and essential balance for a show like this.