There are musicals that come and go, theatrical events that are a flash in the pan. When it comes to “The Book of Mormon,” however, you should believe all the hype. “The Book of Mormon,” now playing at the Bank of America for what seems like the foreseeable future, is the real deal.
The winner of nine 2011 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, “The Book of Mormon” has a book, music, and lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone. Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone are the Emmy Award-winning creators of “South Park,” and Mr. Lopez is the composer of the Tony Award-winning musical “Avenue Q.” The marriage of these three gentlemen is a perfect fit for this material. The Mormon church, which has received a great deal of criticism and ridicule, has a great deal of religious tenants that are ripe for criticism, such as the belief that God lives on another planet, and that the Book of Mormon was written by a man in Upstate New York who found some golden plates in his back yard. As irreverent as it is funny, “The Book of Mormon” has something to shock pretty much everybody, which is really the whole point. If you’ve seen “South Park” or “Avenue Q,” you know what you’re in for. Not that it’s all laughs, however. There are clearly some very serious issues being dealt with in this show. Social commentary coupled with humor is always effective.
Elder Price (Nic Roleau) and Elder Cunningham (Ben Platt), on their Mormon mission to Uganda, are up against a series of challenges, including a village full of AIDS-infected people and a warlord (whose name is unprintable) with a propensity for shooting people in the face. As the elders endeavor to convert the Ugandan villagers, they confront subjects such as homosexuality, female circumcision and child molestation. Elder Price really wanted to be sent to his favorite place on earth, Orlando. His mission to Uganda is everything he didn’t plan on, and his attitude reflects it. Elder Cunningham, due to his propensity to invent facts, actually begins to have an effect on the Ugandans, particularly Nabulungi (Syesha Mercado), a young girl desperate to escape from the life she’s currently leading.
From the very funny opening number, to the Ugandan anthem “Hasa Diga Eebowai” (which translates to something unprintable), to the Mormon anthem “Turn it Off,” to the double-entendre laden “Baptize Me,” and finally to “Joseph Smith American Moses,” a hysterically funny nod to “The Small House of Uncle Thomas” from “The King and I,” the laughs never seem to stop.
Mr. Roleau, and Mr. Platt, as Elders Price and Cunningham, are the center of the show, but “The Book of Mormon” is an ensemble show in the way that most musicals are not. Beautifully directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker, this show is so well cast and directed that it just exists as a unified entity. I’ll just say that the entire cast makes this show what it is.