‘Book of Mormon’ tops lineup of shows coming to Stranahan

  • The-Book-of-Mormon-Elder-Price

    Elder Price and Elder Cunningham arrive in Uganda in a scene from 'The Book of Mormon.'

  • Elder Price and Elder Cunningham arrive in Uganda in a scene from 'The Book of Mormon.'
    Elder Price and Elder Cunningham arrive in Uganda in a scene from 'The Book of Mormon.'

    Here’s a bit of prophesy, theater fans: The Book of Mormon, the mega-hit coming to the Stranahan Theater Dec. 16-21, will be a delight.

    It’s irreverent (very), rude (yes), and the language is salty (very), but what would you expect from the creators of TV’s South Park? Judging by its continuing popularity on Broadway, in London, and on U.S. tours, the extravagantly entertaining musical earned its nine 2011 Tony Awards, including one for Best Musical.

    Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of Book of Mormon and South Park, are fans of musical theater, Mark Edelman, president of the Theater League, which presents the Broadway In Toledo Series, said in a phone interview. And, this show is “their homage” to it. The Book of Mormon overflows with satire, parody, big show-stopping songs, and high-energy dance numbers.

    It is just one of the shows coming to the Stranahan in its 2014-2015 season, Edelman announced. The season will include another hit musical, Once, the classic Camelot, and Sister Act.

    “[The Book of Mormon] really is a kind of love letter to Rodgers and Hammerstein,” Edelman said. “[Parker and Stone] have done a terrific job with the help of Robert Lopez, who is co-creator of Avenue Q, which is another sort of irreverent musical that coincidentally won the Tony (in 2004 for Best Musical).” Parker is Book of Mormon co-director and co-wrote the book, music, and lyrics with Lopez and Stone.

    The plot: Two Mormon missionaries at the training center in Provo, Utah, Elder Kevin Price, who is determined and ambitious, and Elder Arnold Cunningham, who is awkward and tends to bend the truth, are waiting for their assignments. They are sent to a village in Uganda to take their message to the people. But the people are more concerned about a cruel warlord, famine, poverty, and AIDS. Will faith triumph in the end?

    “Matt and Trey, I guess they raise people’s temperature with the language and the stories they tell, but basically they’re reminding their audiences, either on South Park or Book of Mormon, that although the stories may change, the goodness of people and their desire to reach out, that’s universal,” Edelman said.

    Mark Evans as Elder Price in the first
    Mark Evans as Elder Price in the first "The Book of Mormom" national tour. The show will be in Toledo Dec. 16-21.

    Once, a Broadway winner that earned eight Tony Awards in 2012, including Best Musical, and continues on Broadway, will be presented at the Stranahan May 5-10, 2015. It’s the story of a Dublin street musician who is about to give up his dreams when a young woman is drawn to his love songs. His music becomes the soundtrack of their love story, a story that turns out to be quite complicated. The ensemble of actor-musicians play the score onstage, and the score includes “Falling Slowly,” which won the Oscar for Best Original Song in 2008.

    There are plans for some audience participation when Once arrives here in 2015, Edelman said. The show is set in an Irish pub, so Toledo theater-goers will have a chance to step up to the onstage bar before the show and during intermission to add to the atmosphere.

    Sister Act, based on the 1992 film that Whoopi Goldberg made famous, will be here April 9-12, 2015. “It’s about a Las Vegas-style singer who gets caught up with some mobsters, and she witnesses something she shouldn’t have seen,” Edelman said. So she hides in a convent and soon comes to the rescue of the choir, which could use her musical talent. Sister Act has great Broadway-style gospel music, Edelman said. “[There’s] lots of fun, lots of dancing, lots of glitz.”

    Rounding out the Broadway In Toledo Series is Camelot, which will run this fall, Oct. 23-26. This classic musical tells the legend of King Arthur, his queen, Guinevere, and Lancelot and the Knights of the Round Table. The Tony winner has marvelous songs by Alan Jay Lerner (book and lyrics) and Frederic Loewe (music). The original 1960 production, directed by Moss Hart, won four Tony Awards and lead to many revivals and a 1967 film.

    Camelot’s enduring story and songs remain, but Toledo audiences may see an updated production style. “The look of it will be a little bit of a tip of the cap to the Game of Thrones, Edelman said.

    Edelman also announced that Beauty and the Beast will return to the Stranahan Jan. 23 and 24, 2015.

    The Theater League, a Kansas City-based company that produces and presents Broadway musicals, plays, and new works in local performing arts centers, has been presenting the Broadway series at the Stranahan Theater since 1991. Season tickets for the four shows start at $130, and payment plans are available. New season members can reserve a place in line for the 2014-2015 season by calling 419-381-8851 or by going to the box office at 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. Information: theaterleague.com.

    Contact Sue Brickey at: sbrickey@theblade.com.