The Tony-award winning musical The Book of Mormon, which debuted last night at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, is nothing less than a celebration of life.
So says gay heart-throb Mark Evans, who plays one of the two lead roles in the musical. The other lead role is played by Christopher O’Neill, and it’s a coming of age story of these two young guys portraying Mormon missionaries in war-torn Uganda.
Still a big hit on Broadway, the production in Ft. Lauderdale is by one of the two touring companies bringing the Mormon message to the country. It played to a sold-out audience here, which gave it a rousing reception.
This is not surprising since there was a significant gay contingent in the audience. I asked Evans what the gay community should take away from this play, which does contain some very offensive references to gay life – not surprising since the Mormon cult is implacably opposed to homosexuals.
“The gay community, like any other community, can see the show as a celebration of life,” said Evans. “The message at the end is no matter who you are, what you believe in, what you do, as long as it makes you a happy and better person, then do what you want. I think that is a positive message.”
Evans put the Book of Mormon play into context as part of his philosophy of what theatre is all about.
“For me theatre should always be an escapism – you should go in there whether it be a serious play or a joyous musical, and you should escape whatever your reality is for that two and half hours. This show, more than anything I’ve ever worked on personally, is achieving that, which is great. “
Evans said his fellow actor Grey Henson, in the gay role, “has probably the most difficult character of any of us because as we go from city to city the gay song Turn It Off is the most controversial in the play.”
The song relates how the Mormons are taught to deal with thoughts of having sex with other men – just imagine a light switch in your head that controls those feelings, and switch it off.
Hanson said that “when we go to some cities they don’t laugh at any of the gay jokes and I feel like I’ve lost all my talent! I just have to be confident in what we’re doing and know that it’s funny material.
“When I sing Turn It Off people don’t laugh at it sometimes because they do that – they actually struggle with that issue. But it’s all in fun. If you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?”
Filled with choreography that is bizarre, outstanding and effeminate, Book of Mormon possesses one ineluctable quality. It has heart. Go and see it! Performances run through Dec. 22.
Go to the website for ticketing details: www.browardcenter.org
Photo with this article copyright Clifford Cunningham