BY JUSTIN FORD
Kitchener’s Centre In The Square has landed arguably one of the biggest Broadway musicals of our time.
The Book of Mormon will be performed at the centre from Tuesday, Dec. 9 until Sunday, Dec. 14. Kitchener will be one of the very few Canadian stops the musical makes.
“It (the negotiation process) took about two years,” said the centre’s chief executive officer, Sandra Bender. “We were a top venue and a top market to consider.”
The Book of Mormon is a satire created by South Park jokesters Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Their crude and direct humour may not be for all, but it was more than enough to earn them nine Tony Awards in 2011, including Best Musical.
“There’s no question The Book of Mormon is going to shock some people,” Bender said. “But, you don’t want to spoil it. It’s kind of its charm.”
The musical tells the story of two missionaries sent to Africa to convert people to Mormonism. If you’re a fan of South Park, you may be thinking this doesn’t bode well for the Mormon religion, and they’re clearly going to be taking some heavy shots at the religion itself. But, that’s not exactly the case.
“They don’t actually attack the Mormon religion, it’s just about making you think,” Bender said. “They deal with worldly issues that we’re ignorant to, and some people are shocked and offended, but people forget that they aren’t making anything up.”
Bender compares what Parker and Stone have done to Broadway with what they did to prime-time television. Yes, it’s obscene and even vulgar at times, but there’s always a message and there’s always a bigger issue being dealt with. She said people are reacting to The Book of Mormon almost in the same manner that people initially reacted to South Park.
“Prepare to be shocked,” said Woodstock resident and Broadway goer Nicole Hill. “They take funny to a whole new inappropriately and hilarious level.”
The centre has one of the largest stages in Canada. They also boast a crew that’s been there since day one. Bender said the theatre itself is highly regarded for its acoustics, and has one of the best sightlines, regardless of where you’re sitting. Essentially, the centre has ideal facilities to host a Broadway musical.
Bender has an illustrious background programming festivals, sometimes working with over 200 acts. She’s even been involved with Mumford and Sons. Still, she admits that in terms of production, this is one of the biggest shows she’s ever been involved with.
“Broadway shows come completely packaged,” Bender said. “They’re beasts. They know exactly what they’re doing.”
Bender’s goal in her two-year tenure at the helm of the centre has been to create an atmosphere and tone of relevancy. She’s been chipping away at this goal by bringing the most contemporary and relevant work to the centre. She’s pushed the boundaries of what people would expect to be available in a market like Kitchener, and she’s succeeded by bringing huge acts like John Legend and now the most successful Broadway musical in recent history.
“Everything in the arts is always worth one shot,” Bender said. “Love or hate, it’s that emotional response. Really, when you think about great art, it comes from being pushed to think differently.”
Just like Bender pushed the centre’s boundaries and succeeded, The Book of Mormon pushes the boundaries of what a Broadway musical is supposed to be.
“They (Parker and Stone) take the piss out of Broadway,” Bender said.
Tickets for The Book of Mormon can be purchased online at www.centreinthesquare.com or by calling 519-578-1570 or 1-800-265-8977. Tickets range from $55 to $155.