Pushing boundaries in ‘The Book of Mormon’ musical

Feb. 06, 2014 @ 10:24 AM

WHAT: “The Book of Mormon”
WHEN: Feb. 11-23
WHERE: Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St., Durham
TICKETS: Sold out, but you can try to get one or two $25 tickets the day of show via lottery at the box office. Find out more at www.dpacnc.com.

Mark Evans plays the lead role of Elder Price in the national tour of the musical “The Book of Mormon” opposite Christopher John O’Neill as Elder Cunningham. O’Neill’s background is sketch comedy. Evans’ theatrical rise is more traditional – “Ghost the Musical,” “Wicked” and “Spamalot” in London’s West End.
“It’s great – this show is a story about two Mormon missionaries thrown together. For me as a Brit coming over and being thrown together with an American, it’s real life,” said Evans, who is from Wales. He keeps O’Neill in line and O’Neill chills Evans out, he said.
Evans was auditioning in London for “The Book of Mormon” production there when American creative team came over, he said, and he was picked for the U.S. tour.
“I’ll move to New York once I’m finished,” he said. But for now – and for the past 14 months – it’s been life on the road. The show usually spends two weeks in each city, with Mondays off or a travel day and five shows on weekends. It’s cool, Evans said.
Before “The Book of Mormon” comes to the Durham Performing Arts Center Feb. 11-23, it’s finishing a run in Atlanta. Opening night there was postponed after the disastrous snowy road conditions last week, so the cast just waited, hibernating and watching television and movies, Evans said.
“When you tour with people, you get to know people a lot more. You travel together, live together. The cast changes, with new people coming,” he said.
“The Book of Mormon” is a musical satire of the Mormon faith by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of “South Park” fame along with Bobby Lopez, the man behind “Avenue Q.”
In the coffee table book, “The Book of Mormon: The Testament of a Broadway Musical,” which chronicles how the show came together, Stone is quoted as saying that Mormons are merely their specimen for this examination of religion.
“Being a minority religion that most people outside of Utah don’t know a lot about, it’s a perfect way to get a theater crowd laughing at something,” Stone says. “Then somewhere they start realizing that maybe they’re not just laughing at this, but at some of their own beliefs.”
Evans thinks the show is genius in how it pushes boundaries and sticks to the musical format tied with short, snappy scenes. The music is brilliant, he said.
“The Book of Mormon” has a great life lesson, too, Evans said.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or what you believe in, if it makes you a better person, go for it,” he said. “It’s not bashing the Mormon religion. In true ‘South Park’ style, it has sarcastic comments about sexuality, race, where you live geographically.”
Evans said that he believes that in an ironic way it educates audiences about the Mormon religion.
He could say what actors tend to say -- that he doesn’t get nervous, Evans said. But there is some anxiety when the show starts because they want to get the audience on their side in the first 20 minutes. Some crowds can be tough.
“This show, it’s a real unknown. It keeps us on our toes. It’s great. It’s exciting,” Evans said.