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Mormons become 'real people' for 'Book of Mormon' musical cast touring upstate New York

Published: Friday, Sept. 4 2015 6:51 a.m. MDT

“The Book of Mormon” was created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of “South Park” television fame. (www.bookofmormonbroadway.com) “The Book of Mormon” was created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of “South Park” television fame. (www.bookofmormonbroadway.com)

NEW YORK — Mormons became "real people" for the cast of a touring company of the Broadway musical, “The Book of Mormon,” after touring LDS Church historical sites during a break from performances in Rochester, N.Y.

“It was amazing for us, I think because it was an opportunity for us to really discover a lot more depth to the religion and to Mormons in general,” Mark Evans, who plays Elder Price in the touring production, told the Victoria Times Colonist prior to the start of the company’s run in Toronto. “And all of a sudden these caricature characters that we play onstage suddenly had a depth and we had a wealth of knowledge, and they became real people.”

“The Book of Mormon” was created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of “South Park” television fame. By all accounts the show is crude, vulgar and irreverent, and is known for poking the eye of organized religion in general and the LDS Church specifically.

But Evans doesn’t see it that way.

“If anything, it celebrates Mormonism, because it’s kind of showing that it’s a good thing,” Evans said. “If believing the Book of Mormon makes your life better, then great.”

In addition to winning nine Tony Awards in 2011, “The Book of Mormon” musical has also broken box-office records on Broadway and wherever the touring companies have performed.

And as Deseret News readers know, it is also responsible for at least one baptism into the LDS Church.

For its part, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has taken an unruffled approach to the musical. When the show opened on Broadway, the church issued a statement: “The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.” The church has even been purchasing advertising space in theater playbills, urging those who have seen the musical to “read the book.”

And that’s consistent with what Evans observed as he toured the LDS historic sites in New York such as the Joseph Smith home, the Sacred Grove (where LDS founder Joseph Smith received what Mormons call “The First Vision,” which led to the establishment of the church) and the Hill Cumorah (where Joseph Smith was led to find the golden plates upon which were written the text of the Book of Mormon).

“You just see how genuinely content and happy (Mormons) are,” he said. “They really are. They are just these serene, happy people.

“And I think that’s the message of our show,” he added. “No matter who you are, what you believe in, what your religious background is, if whatever you believe in makes you happy and makes life easier, then do it.”

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company