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Book of Mormon

'Book of Mormon' losing key actors this summer

By Jessica Turgeon

In early 2011, a new show opened on Broadway that would take New York City by storm. "Book of Mormon," a musical parody on the Mormon religion, is a collaboration with book, lyrics, and music by Trey Parker and Matt Stone the creators of "South Park," and "Avenue Q's" Robert Lopez. The show opened at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in New York City in March of 2011.

The show, described by The Washington Post, is an "offensive yet good-natured look at two missionaries who arrive in Uganda and get way more than they bargained for, including gun-toting warlords." "Book of Mormon" has had a very successful run on Broadway so far in its almost year and a half existence. The show sells out 102 percent of its box office, and averages around $1.5 million a week, according to Forbes. The Washington Post says "Mormon" tickets are still some of the hardest tickets to get, even though the show has been playing for over a year.

The religion in question, Mormonism, is parodied within the musical, but not to the extent of being rude or offensive. Some Mormon folks who went to see the show were pleasantly surprised that there was nothing distasteful about the content. Ben Brantley of The New York Times says, "these numbers are witty, ridiculous, impeccably executed, genuinely stirring and — contrary to expectation — free of snark or satirical malice."

The original Tony Award-winning cast has been going strong since the opening. Unfortunately, for some of the stars, their run has come to an end. It seems to be a trend for the "Book of Mormon" stars to leave the show to move into Hollywood and television/film acting. Both Josh Gad, who plays Elder Cunningham, and Andrew Rannells, who plays Elder Price, will be leaving Broadway to take up screen acting for NBC, according to Forbes. Gad will be in a new television comedy, "1600 Penn" while Rannells will be in "The New Normal," premiering this fall. Both actors are Tony Award nominees and their talent will surely be missed.

In honor of Gad's last performance and the one-year anniversary of the show's opening, producers created a contest for loyal fans to win tickets to a free matinee performance. The sweepstakes lasted from March to May, and over 10,000 fans entered to win tickets for the June 6 performance, which was a success.

Fellow "Book of Mormon" actress, Nikki M. James, who won a Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of the character Nabulungi, will be taking a leave of absence from the show this summer to work on a movie musical, "Lucky Stiff" directed by Lynn Ahrens, which is currently in pre-production. After her summer off, James will be back to the stage, with no thoughts on leaving the show permanently. This Tony Award-winning actress plans to continue working on the show she loves.

Despite losing some major players, the show will continue to play on. Broadway is not it however, as the show is gearing up for the first North American tour, scheduled to begin in August 2012 in Denver, CO, moving on to Los Angeles in early September, and then around the country for another three months. There is also speculation of a London West End production for early 2013.

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