Tony Award-Winning Hit The Book of Mormon Celebrates 1,000 Performances On Broadway Aug. 17 –

And this news surprised absolutely no one. (Seriously, they’ve been making $1 million + every week since they opened.)

But in all seriousness, good for you guys. Rock it!

(Check out my thoughts on the show from when I saw it in previews.)

Tony Award-Winning Hit The Book of Mormon Celebrates 1,000 Performances On Broadway Aug. 17 –

My Top Ten Moments of Theatre in 2011

It’s always hard to pick just five moments of New York theatre a to wrap up a year. But it’s especially difficult when you’ve seen and processed the most recent season so I thought I’d do a Top 10 list.

1. First on this list is obviously Sleep No More, presented by Punchdrunk. I’m glad I got in on this before people caught on to what was going on down in Chelsea. If you’ve gone to see Sleep No More, you know what it’s like and if you haven’t seen it, there’s really no way to explain it without sounding like a crazy person about why it was such an amazing experience. Save up your money and go buy yourself a ticket for 2012.

2. The next thing that instantly came to mind was Once, currently showing at the New York Theatre Workshop. Based on the indie movie of the same name, it’s a touching story of how one girl helps a musician achieve his dreams (and they kinda-sorta fall in love too). This was such a unique piece of theatre because it starts an hour before “curtain” time. The cast, who doubles as the band, is playing, singing, and dancing onstage for an hour before the actually story starts (and don’t worry, you’ll know when the show starts). They announced their transfer to Broadway hours before they opened off-Broadway, which is pretty amazing. It’s Spring Awakening for adults and it’s theme is to not live your life without pursuing your dreams – which is a pretty important one, if you ask me.

3. Next up comes The Hallway Trilogy presented by the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre and written by my favorite, Adam Rapp, which I just realized I never actually wrote about and that’s probably because there was no way to translate the experience into words. This was a hundred year history of this one hallway from the time of Eugene O’Neil to a time 50 years in the future when New York was disease free and now financially strapped individuals could make money being injected with ‘old fashioned’ diseases in a museum for the rich to come and witness.

4. I still can’t believe that American Idiot closed only this year; it all seems like so much longer ago. Whenever I think back to one of the most ridiculously energetic performances I saw, I immediately think back to February 27th, 2011 – the night John Gallagher Jr., Michael Esper, and Billie Joe Armstrong left the show. It felt like every single person in that theatre was there for those three guys and you could hear the love pouring out from them. It was just a ridiculous and amazing night, one that I will not soon forget.

5. An incredible moment that makes this list happened only last week. A benefit for Royal Family Productions, Anthony Rapp performed a reading of his brother Adam Rapp’s script Nocturne at Symphony Space, a few blocks from where I live on the Upper West Side in a night titled “Rapp Reads Rapp.” Nocturne was one of the few plays of Rapp’s that I had no familiarity with but oh boy is it amazing, and Anthony did an incredible job with it. By the end he was in tears.

6. I thought Thomas Sadowski was pretty good in 2009’s reasons to be pretty but he left me speechless in this season’s Broadway transfer of Other Desert Cities. His character was so complicated and went through so many emotions that I was absolutely exhausted and heart broken watching him from the front row. 

7. When you try to think of the most fantastic actress discovered out-of-the-blue in the last five years, you’d be hard pressed to think of someone more talented of Nina Arianda and her performance in Venus in Fur. Her performance is a tour-de-force and isn’t to be missed. I’m not sure how to use words to describe it actually. It has to be seen and not described. She crashes through the door ten minutes into the script and the whirlwind that she creates onstage never stops.

8. When I think of Norbert Leo Butz, I will always think of him as my first Roger in Rent in 1998. The next moment I’ll think of is his performance in this year’s Catch Me If You Can. Catch Me was a [mostly] bore of a show that had all the makings of what should’ve been a great musical, but the only reason I saw it twice was to watch Mr. Butz. He danced and moved in ways that I didn’t think he could during the song “Breaking All the Rules.” Watching him on the Tony’s, and then win his second Tony, it was a great thing.

9. I missed Boeing Boeing a few years ago and after seeing Mark Rylance in both La Bete and Jerusalem this year, that will forever be one of my great theatre-related regrets. I will still stand my ground that Mark Rylance was even better in La Bete than in Jerusalem, but for the purposes of doing a review of the year of 2011, I’ll talk about his performance in Jerusalem.  Playing a modern day pied piper in England, you loved him, you felt bad for him, you loved listening to his rambling. Like I said back in April, Rylance might be one of the great actors of our day.

10. I’ve been a fan of Jan Maxwell since I worked at Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang in 2005 and I’ve seen almost everything she’s done since. She’s never won a Tony but this just might be her year with her mouth-dropping turn in this season’s revival of Follies. She brings down the house in Act 2 like I’ve never seen her do. I never knew she could dance like she does, and she’s absolutely heartbreaking. Follies isn’t my cup of tea when it comes to musical theatre, but I’d see it again to watch her onstage.   

So, I think that’s it. Honorable mentions go to War Horse (breathtaking, just absolutely mind-blowing), The Normal Heart (after the 2010 reading, this production was magnificent), The Book of Mormon (I’m glad I saw this in previews), How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Mr. Radcliffe blew me away with his moves, and after wanting to see this show revived again for so many years, this is a great production), and The Amoralists (a fantastic theatre company that produces really unique theatrical experiences such as this one and this one). 

I won’t deny the fact that there was a ton of crap produced on and off-Broadway this year, but it’d be silly to neglect to acknowledge the amazing moments that I was fortunate enough to see too. We’ll see what 2012 holds.

photo taken in April 2011

Missionary Men With Confidence in Sunshine (via NYT)

This is to all the doubters and deniers out there, the ones who say that heaven on Broadway does not exist, that it’s only some myth our ancestors dreamed up. I am here to report that a newborn, old-fashioned, pleasure-giving musical has arrived at the Eugene O’Neill Theater, the kind our grandparents told us left them walking on air if not on water. So hie thee hence, nonbelievers (and believers too), to “The Book of Mormon,” and feast upon its sweetness. – Ben Brantley

It’s opening statements like that which are the reason why Brantley is paid the big bucks and has a desk at the New York Times.  Every theatre geek has been waiting for the reviews for The Book of Mormon to be released since before it came to Broadway.  Well, here they are and they are raves.  I’ve been reading a few other publications here and there, and a few are negative, but those are from pretty inconsequential papers (what theatre fan actually turns to the Financial Times to read a review? Yeah.).  

I am happy to say that Brantley got the show.  One hundred and ten percent.  It’s a show with a huge heart, the kind of show your grandparents grew up with, only it has a dirty mouth.  Everyone else who gave it a positive review also got it.  Those who didn’t, like that of The Star, were upset that it wasn’t meaner towards to Mormon religion.

Someone pointed out that there has been almost no footage released from the show with regards to commercials or online advertisements, and no television performances either.  I think it’s a very smart move because oftentimes it’s best to go into a show with no expectations whatsoever and the team of The Book of Mormon are allowing you to do just that.  

Now go forth, and buy your tickets.  

Missionary Men With Confidence in Sunshine (via NYT)

As soon as the buzz got around after the first preview that The Book of Mormon was the funniest musical people had seen since South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, I went immediately to the theatre and purchased tickets. The Book of Mormon is bringing back the long deceased tradition of discount tickets for preview performances, so for just $45 each, I was able to grab a pair of seats in the third row of the rear mezzanine.  (Orchestra seats are just $76 each.)  

One of my favorite things about going to see a show in previews is the fact that there will (most likely) be no understudies on.  This was the case on Thursday night and I was ecstatic.  I also wanted to see The Book of Mormon early on in previews so that I could see it in it’s dirtiest, most vulgar and offensive shape.  I mean, why else would anyone go to see a show written by the people who brought us South Park and Avenue Q, right?

The Book of Mormon tells the story of two Elders, Elder Cunningham (the lackluster and kind of shitty Elder) and Elder Price (the star Elder), who get sent to a missionary in Uganda upon completing their missionary training.  Price had been hoping to get sent to Orland (land of Disney!) and Cunningham is just finally relieved to have a built-in best friend, and hopes that Uganda will maybe be “like The Lion King.”  Spoiler: It’s not at all like The Lion King.  

After having all of their belongings stolen from them upon arrival by the African warlords, the villagers where they are staying sing a song in their language which loosely translates in English to “Fuck you, God.”  

The plot unfolds into Scary Mormon Hell Dreams and the task at hand which is to “save” (convert) these Africans to Mormonism.  There’s a happy ending of course, this is a show based on Mormons after all.  Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells as the two main Elders are both excellent, as are Michael Potts and Nikki M. James as two of the main tribal members in the story.  The ensemble of Mormon missionary boys are also not very hard to pay attention to for two hours – all blonde haired and blue eyed.  They’re dreamy, and wonderful dancers and singers.

There is a plethora of AIDS jokes, and rape jokes too.  But Stone and Parker are never too mean to the Mormon religion, and only hint at the ridiculousness of it’s origin twice.  The opening number in the second act could definitely benefit from being shortened a bit (it felt like it went on and on, and on), and the script could also use some tightening, but overall, this is a finely crafted American musical, with lyrics that will make your jaw drop.  

The Book of Mormon is playing at the Eugene O’Neil Theatre on West 49th Street.  More information here.  

“We love musicals, and we love Mormons,” Parker says. “I think if any Mormons come and stay all the way through, they’ll end up liking the show. I mean, it rips on them a lot, but in the end their spirit of wanting to help wins the day.”

“Of course,” Stone points out, “we do have a song where everybody sings, ‘Fuck you, God.’ ”

“We’re just having some fun at God’s expense,” Parker says. “I think He can take it.”

Stone nods in agreement, adding, “He sure can dish it out.”

South Park’s Creators New Comedy-Musical: The Book of Mormon (via Vogue)

This show just keeps getting better and better.

On the show’s origins, says [Trey] Parker: “Mormons are so Disney and Rodgers & Hammerstein to begin with that it makes perfect sense for them to break into song…That’s why, in many ways, this feels like a traditional musical. You’re being cheesy and corny and all-but that’s who Mormons naturally are.”

via BroadwayWorld

This is going to be the most epic show ever.  Best musical of the last twenty years right here.