PhilDev’s Suites By Sondheim benefit concert at Lincoln Center was like reaching into a cereal box of Stephen Sondheim’s Lucky Charms and scooping out a handful of marshmallows. The concert, held at Alice Tully Hall on November 7 to benefit the Philippine Development Foundation, featured songs only among the composer’s biggest hits. Performing the sweeping
numbers were 36 Broadway actors of Filipino descent, including concert headliner Lea Salonga (Miss Saigon), Adam Jacobs (The Lion King), T.V. Carpio (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark), and Ali Ewoldt (Les Miserables).
Jose Llana led a lively ensemble opener with the title song to Company, followed by a cutesy “You Could Drive A Person Crazy” by Carpio, Liz Casola, and Jaygee Macapugay. Llana closed out the Company set with a solid “Being Alive.”
The West Side Story segment was among the strongest of the night, reuniting Jacobs and Ewoldt, who played Marius and Cosette in the 2006 revival of Les Miserables. They sang a shiver-inducing “One Hand, One Heart,” which exemplified their pitch-perfect chemistry. Joan Almedilla joined Ewoldt for a ferocious “A Boy Like That,” which they beautifully juxtaposed with a haunting “I Have A Love.” Read more
When Rory O’Malley called his mother in Ohio to tell her the happy news that he had been nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in The Book of Mormon, she suggested that he double check. “She said, ‘Are you sure? How do you know?’” O’Malley recalled. “I said, ‘It was on TV, Mom.’” Despite the momentary disbelief, O’Malley cites sharing the news with his supportive mom as the highlight of his Tony journey. “She certainly worked just as hard, if not harder, on my dreams by being who she is and raising me.” Read more
The best thing about the new musical The Book of Mormon is that it is at the same time shocking and familiar. It is difficult to think of another instance where a musical so blatantly laughs in the face of religion—a topic best avoided in any social setting—and holds nothing back in terms of profanity and sexual humor. Yet even so, The Book of Mormon, while setting these precedents, is a beautifully constructed Broadway musical in a very traditional sense.
Written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the duo has made very public over the years their reverence of musical theater. Collaborating with Robert Lopez, co-writer of the Tony-winning Avenue Q, this musical-loving team has done the medium justice. With a story that follows two young Mormon missionaries to Uganda to spread the word of their faith, character traits and ambitions are established immediately and simply. Elder Price (Andrew Rannells) is a handsome, perfect Mormon disciple, determined to rise the ranks in the Church of Latter-Day Saints. Elder Cunningham (Josh Gad) is a goofy, clueless loudmouth who just wants to make a friend and prove his worth to his parents. Audience, we have our newest Broadway odd couple!
Parker, Stone, and Lopez (who, from the sound of it, could open up a law firm if this endeavor fails), present their two heroes and their fellow Mormons as relentlessly cheery drones who have no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to the logistics of their faith. It doesn’t matter how you or I perceive the Mormon community; this is the version that Parker, Stone, and Lopez have created for their show, and as a set of characters in a musical work of fiction, they are built on fantastic character devices. Elder Price, while presenting himself as selfless and good intentioned, possesses a dark, narcissistic desire for self advancement. Elder Cunningham, while appearing ignorantly blithe, struggles with a seed of doubt that grows stronger as the show progresses. And the missionary leader in Uganda, Elder McKinley (Rory O’Malley) surprises his homosexual urges so decidedly that he “turns it off like a light switch.” (Yeah, right!) Read more