Is the divinely inspired, most original musical “The Book of Mormon” written by those two clever upstarts – Trey Parker and Matt Stone (who created the hit “animated” South Park series) with unlisted dirty songs by that equally clever and snappy composer from “Avenue Q” – Robert Lopez truly a riot? Is the Pope Catholic?
Together with choreographer Casey Nicholaw of “Elf: The Musical” and the hysterical “The Drowsy Chaperone” fame, this foursome have pooled their considerable creative talents and come up with one of the truly funny shows of the season. Clever and smart and tuneful. And oh yes, heartfelt.
Who would have thought that mocking the Mormons unmercilessly could be so entertaining and refreshing and have you laughing uncontrollably about famine, poverty, AIDS, the mutilation of women and the raping of babies when those Holy Helpers come-a-calling to spread the word of the Heavenly Father in Uganda.
In the beginning the doorbell rang. And it was the tall, good-looking, fresh scrubbed, smiling, optimistic, take charge Elder Price (a beaming Andrew Rannells) awaiting to see who his partner will be and where they are destined to depart to, to “spread the word” in wonderful song and dance. He praying for Orlando.
He gets hooked up with the short, chubby, lonely and looking for a best friend Elder Cunningham (Josh Gad) a guy with low esteem, a huge imagination and an annoying laugh that somehow becomes endearing.
It’s Laurel and Hardy. It’s Yin and Yang. It’s Elder Price and Elder Cunningham off to Uganda. Class of cultures. Great setup. We can see the creative minds working on their story board. I mean the plot. Where to place the production numbers? Gotta sting. It’s expected of them.
What we did not expect is an old fashioned musical with that razor sharp edge to it. The songs are not your Grandmother’s Rodgers and Hammerstein but they propel the plot along and help define character. And they are down right hysterical.
When the odd couple of Elders arrive they meet the other Elders, led by Elder McKinley (Rory O’Malley) who have not been able to baptize a single soul as the villagers are fearful of General Butt F***** Naked (Brian Tyree Henry) who believes that AIDS can be cured by raping babies. Mafala Hatimbi (Michael Potts) wants to protect his daughter Nabulungi (a charming and sweet Nikki M. James) from being mutilated. If this doesn’t sound very funny, believe me it is in the hands of our creative team. Elder Price is confused and leaves Elder Cunningham holding the bag so to speak and he has to come up with something imaginative to woo the villagers over to believing in baptism and the Book of Mormon. Which he does so in his own inimitable manner.
You will get some one sided Mormon history along with a most sexually fueled baptism scene “Baptize Me”, a song dealing with latent homosexuality “Turn It Off” a “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” sequence, a show stopping “I Believe” and a full fledged satire of Jerome Robbins’ ballet from The King and I – Small House of Uncle Thomas here called “Joseph Smith American Moses”.
Go and become a believer.
www.bookofmormonbroadway.com Photo: Joan Marcus
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