DETROIT – Hello! The missionaries are back in Detroit to sing their way into our hearts.
The national tour of the Broadway blockbuster The Book of Mormon, which is still running strong at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, gloriously returned to the Fisher Theatre in Detroit.
The musical, which opened in 2011, is still as hysterical and irreverent as it was a dozen years ago. A lot has changed in the world since then, including cultural shifts in attitude on religion, race and humor, yet the show still manages to pack on the laughs.
Sam McLellan stars as the wide-eyed Elder Price, whose naïve dream to be sent to Orlando for his mission goes awry when he’s sent off to Uganda. McLellan is a youthful and spirited Price who plays up the naivety which is the source for much of his drive. McLellans vocals soar through many of his solos, especially in “I Believe” and commands attention even in big group dance numbers.
Elder Cunningham, played by Sam Nackman, is Price’s well-meaning but compulsively lying sidekick. Nackman’s comedic timing is perfection, often with the best jokes of the night, including a running gag of never getting his love interest’s name quite right. Nackman’s dance moves were a fun surprise and his commitment to every bit paid off. He also has an impressive collection of vocal impressions, making his geeky pop culture-obsessed personality even more believable. McLellan and Nackman’s chemistry is spot-on, which makes the audience want to root for the two, despite their obvious flaws.
The ensemble, many playing multiple roles and characters, bring as much of the high-octane energy as the leads. From countless costume changes to tap dancing, to moving numerous set pieces back and forth, this is a cast that’s working hard to get the laughs. And very successfully.
Despite being a slightly smaller-scale show than previous iterations of the tour, this Book of Mormon still manages to feel like the big Broadway show that it is. The sets are grand, the dance numbers are big, and a showstopping number still brings a hint of magic.
The book, by South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone, along with Frozen’s Robert Lopez, is as strong as ever with jokes and one-liners still packing their punch. Musical comedies can be tricky, especially if the jokes rely heavily on topical subjects. But it’s a testament to the writers and the pertinence of religion in our everyday lives, whether one believes or not, that keeps it so relevant.
The Book of Mormon is still the clever, uproarious and, most of all, fun musical that it was 12 years ago. It’s also still crude and sometimes shocking, but that’s just part of the fun. Judging from the packed house at the Fisher Theatre and the reactions from the audience, The Book of Mormon is here to stay another Latter-day.
The Book of Mormon is now playing at the Fisher Theatre through Sunday, March 19th with a run time of 2 hours and 30 minutes. Limited ticket availability. For show schedule and tickets, visit BroadwayinDetroit.com.