Montreal Theatre – The Book of Mormon – Clybourne Park
Montreal Theatre – “The Book of Mormon”, the wildly satirical musical comedy that won 12 Tony Awards – including Best Musical in 2011 – will be returning to Montreal for a limited engagement from April 18 to 23 at Salle Wilfrid Pelletier of Place des Arts. Created by Matt Stone and Trey Parker (the duo behind the edgy Comedy Central animated series “South Park”) and Robert Lopez (who created the equally edgy Broadway musical “Avenue Q”), “The Book of Mormon” tells the story of Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, two members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), also known as the Mormons, who are fresh out of the LDS Church Missionary Training Center, and are eager for their first international posting as missionaries to spread the gospel of what the Book of Mormon has to offer to their potential new converts. However, instead of getting assigned to Elder Price’s dream posting of Orlando, Florida, he and Elder Cunningham are sent to Uganda, in particular a village that is ruled by a tyrannical local warlord.
“The show is damned funny. If you tell the average 40-year-old about a musical that deals with religion, they will run away screaming in the opposite direction. If it’s covered by the people who brought you South Park and Avenue Q, then it’s a different story, because people will not sit down and watch a two-hour musical of that nature without some humour to it,” said Gabe Gibbs, who portrays Elder Price in this current touring company production of “The Book of Mormon”.
During a recent phone interview with Gibbs from Toronto, where “Book of Mormon” is about to wrap up a seven-week run before heading to Montreal, he expressed a great deal of admiration for Stone, Parker and Lopez for raising questions about organized religion in general through “Book of Mormon” that normally wouldn’t be brought to the table during a normal conversation. But he also cited another reason why he is honoured to be part of the cast of a show that he deemed as “something special.”
“It’s fun to see someone sent into an impossible situation, and it’s even more fun to watch somebody not get it when they are offered something that is not part of their values,” he admitted. “Basically, it’s fun to watch those missionaries drown as they try to preach something that doesn’t match or connect with the villagers they hope to convert.”
Gibbs, a native of Detroit who performed “The Book of Mormon” on Broadway and joined the national touring company this past October, admits that going on the road with a hit Broadway show can be tough, but says that when the show arrives at a certain destination for a short or lengthy engagement, somehow adapts a small percentage of it to cater to the city or region where it is playing in. “For example, we tweaked about 2 percent of the show when we brought it to Salt Lake City, Utah, because that’s the world headquarters of the Mormons; and the show ended up being wildly different,” he added.
Tickets for the Montreal run of “The Book of Mormon” are still available, and cost between $41.25 and $125.75. To purchase tickets, go to www.evenko.ca .
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Change can be a good thing, but when it involves a family of another race moving into a bedroom community in a Chicago neighbourhood nearly 60 years ago, that change can be a source of resistance. And that sense of resistance can go into reverse in that same house, in that same bedroom community exactly 50 years after the fact.
That’s the overall theme of Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Clybourne Park”, which is now playing at the Centaur Theatre until April 30.
The play is divided into two parts. The first part takes place in 1959, as Russ and Bev, a middle-aged married couple living in Clybourne Park are about to move out of their house. Throughout this hot Saturday as Russ and Bev are packing the last of their boxes before the big move the following Monday, they receive a number of visitors: Jim, the local parish priest; their friends Karl and his hearing impaired wife Betsy; and Albert, who is picking up his wife Francine, who works as a maid for the couple. Although the fast-paced conversations deal with a variety of rather trivial subjects (from how Neapolitan ice cream got its to name to geography), it eventually dissolves into a whole mess of anger and pain when Karl raises the topic that Russ sold his house to an African American couple (who are about to live in an all-White neighbourhood), and when Jim brings up the painful memories about Russ and Bev’s deceased son, and what lead to his premature tragic death.
The second part takes place 50 years later, in 2009, when a neighbourhood association meets in the same house in the same neighbourhood – which is now predominantly a black neighbourhood – as they discuss the prospect of a white couple purchasing the house in question, and how they plan to tear it down and build a new house on the site. The conversations between the characters, like in the first half, start off being of a trivial nature (like what really is the capital of Morocco). But as it becomes more relevant and politically incorrect, it dissolves into another mess of anger and pain; but this time, the ghosts of the house’s previous owners resurface, thanks to the discovery of an old army footlocker that was buried in the backyard.
“Clybourne Park” is dramedy at its best, with a great deal of humour, talk, frustration and hurt mixed into a winning formula on how people not only deal with subtle, yet radical change, but also how they deal with their personal demons and prejudices. My favourite part is the 1959 segment, which fondly reminded me of the sitcoms and live dramas that were part of TV’s golden age (in fact, I was wondering where the three 1950s TV cameras with the large CBS eye logos on the side were going to emerge from the audience). It started like an episode of “I Love Lucy” and ended up being a production of “Playhouse 90”. And the ensemble cast – which had the challenge of performing two (and sometimes three) different roles – successfully met their acting challenges with flying colours. In particular, special kudos go out to Lisa Bronwyn Moore, whose performance as Bev in the 1959 segment as a typical 50s housewife (complete with makeup, perfectly coiffed hair, house dress and high heel shoes) was a wonderful combination of June Cleaver and Edith Bunker; and Harry Standjofski as Russ, who in his loud, bombastic way, somehow strikes a blow for civil rights as he defends his choice of whom he sold his house to, although much to the consternation of his good friend (and closet bigot) Karl.
For more information, or to purchase tickets, call the Centaur box office at 514-288-3161, or go to www.centaurtheatre.com .