Theater Review: "The Book of Mormon" At The Pantages
This is not an attempt on my part to try and be a pretentious theater critic (goodness knows just my being a theater critic makes me more than pretentious enough already) or to be contrary for the sake of being contrary. It also doesn't mean that I don't think that people should see "The Book of Mormon." It just means that I didn't love it as much as most people probably will.
To preface, I should note that I saw the original production last summer and enjoyed it immensely. The show, which follows two young Mormons (Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner) on their mission to Uganda, is a funny one—as is expected from a show written by the creators of "South Park," Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and the composer of "Avenue Q," Bobby Lopez. "The Book of Mormon," like its creators' previous works, does not shy away from crassness, and preaches a very twenty-first century brand of humor, chock full of pop culture references and metatheatrical moments.
Unfortunately for me, though, the show did not hold up quite so well upon a second viewing. Perhaps it was because I already knew what all the jokes were—though there are some shows I've seen countless times, and still laugh at every joke. However, I suspect that this is another case like my second viewing "Newsies"—as I watched "The Book of Mormon," I couldn't help but feel that the cast's energy was kind of down. Granted, this was their fourth out of five shows on this unusually hot weekend, but still, I got the impression that these professional actors were going through the motions (literally) more than anything else. Also distracting was the fact that many moments came off as a poorly-transcribed copy of the New York production.
Or perhaps a reason I didn't enjoy it so much is is due to the sheer size of the physical theater. The Pantages seats well over two times as many people as the Eugene O'Neill, the show's home in Manhattan, automatically making the touring experience much less intimate. The sound design, which I hadn't before noticed as being particularly good or bad, was unappealing in Los Angeles, with a handful of microphone and balancing problems, in addition to a generally flat sound.
As I write this, I realize how much of an elitist theater snob I come off as, particularly as I am about to tell you why the show is still worth seeing, though I didn't like it. That is not my intention, but since my medium of choice is the written word, I have no way to convince you other than outright saying so, and hoping you trust me.
But I do still recommend the show. Though it did not live up to my expectations, I don't doubt that most of its audience will enjoy it. I brought two friends who had never seen the show before with me, and they both loved it, and I'm sure they would encourage their friends to see it—and I do trust their opinions. Most of the things I liked about the show before, I still like, I just didn't like them as much as I did the first time. I can only hope that if you see it, you will have a more lively experience than I did.