‘The Book of Mormon’ in Boston: ‘No reason to get offended’

O'Neill, far right, says of his character, "He's very socially awkward." (PHOTO CREDIT: Joan Marcus)
Chris O’Neill, far right, says of his character, “He’s very socially awkward.”
Credit: Joan Marcus

A musical about Mormons? It’s a premise that sounds both hilarious and controversial, especially considering the creators of “South Park” are behind it.

“I think a lot of people come to the show expecting us to beat up on the Mormon religion, but it’s actually not that at all,” says Chris O’Neill, one of the leads in “The Book of Mormon.” “It’s really about faith and being a good person.”

O’Neill plays Elder Cunningham, one of two Mormon missionaries sent to Uganda to convert the poverty-stricken, war-fearing natives.

“Elder Cunningham is basically the nerdy character that doesn’t really have any friends. He’s really into ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Star Trek’ and science fiction. He’s very socially awkward,” says O’Neill about his character.

The Tony Award-winning musical satirizes all organized religion, with catchy and crass Broadway-style songs. Audiences should know that however ludicrous they appear to be, all the references to Mormonism in the show are true.

“They have definitely done their research,” says O’Neill of writers Trey Parker, Matt Stone (both of “South Park”) and Robert Lopez (of “Avenue Q” fame). “The script has so many facts in it, which makes you trust it more.”

This show is O’Neill’s professional debut in a theater production, but he’s no stranger to making people laugh. He’s toured extensively as part of a sketch comedy duo.

“I feel very comfortable with the comedy part of this,” he says.

The religion angle doesn’t intimidate him either.

“If you do it properly, there’s no reason to get offended,” he says.

‘The Book of Mormon’
Through April 28
Boston Opera House
539 Washington St., Boston
$26-$194, 800-982-2787
www.boston.broadway.com


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