Our beloved Brew.

Our beloved Brew.
R.I.P. Big guy.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Without The Bottom, Where Would We Know The Top To Be?

If you've read any of my blog posts you know I do a lot of complaining. That's why I wanted to open this one by advising you that after some early critical comments, it will be a whole-hearted, feel good, post of praise.

After nearly 25 years of marriage it gets hard to come up with desirable gifts for my wife, especially since she has a longstanding reluctance about accepting gifts in general from anyone. Things we can do together, which we enjoy equally (that rules out any sporting event on her part), are always a safe bet. This is especially true about theater tickets.

With some reluctance due to the price in the reseller market, I acquired two tickets at more than four times face value to see Book of Mormon in Chicago. It was a rare date night for two empty-nesters. It was only after we were in our seats and I had a chance to read the program did I learn that the play was the work of the creators of South Park. This proved to be an unexpected bonus since my wife is a huge fan of the TV program. I've watched South Park a handful of times and it isn't my cup of tea.

While my wife thoroughly enjoyed Book of Mormon, I found it to be only mildly entertaining. It certainly didn't compare with many of the great Broadway shows I've attended. Because of the farcical premise of the play and exaggerated personalities of the characters, I couldn't identify with any of them. In most cases, I found the roles to be caricature like. The music seemed overly simple and formulaic. As an example, I can't recall a single tune from the show or the work of a single performer I thought stood out. That's pretty telling for what is billed as a musical. Sitting through Book of Mormon felt like just another South Park episode, that was about 30 minutes too long.

Here's where the praise begins . . .

In examining why I felt let down by Book of Mormon I realized that for me, the story, the music, the acting and the staging couldn't compare to a long list of shows I truly appreciated seeing.

If you haven't seen Wicked, you owe yourself the treat of seeing a truly brilliant book of music wrapped around a story of fantasy. Les Miserables may be the greatest staging, music and acting ever put on a stage where it is almost impossible not to identify with the characters. Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, and even Joseph and the Amazing Dream Coat offer a level of audience appeal that is undeniably superior.

The key to each of the shows listed in the previous paragraph and dozens more that I have enjoyed is that I have seen each of them numerous times and never tire of the story or performances. Seeing Book of Mormon helped me appreciate all the more what separates an average high school musical from true Broadway worthy brilliance.

As an aside, it didn't surprise me to learn Book of Mormon will discontinue its Chicago appearance this fall, about a year into its run. Likewise, Wicked, which ran for about three years in Chicago and left for about a year is heading back to town. I will be in the audience and cheering loudly.