|Wit, wordplay, and laughs from The Book of Mormon
posted by Ralph Malachowski on Jun 5, 2019 10:30am | comments
Winner of nine Tony Awards, the 2011 musical comedy The Book of Mormon returns to Philadelphia’s Academy of Music. Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Robert Lopez wrote the Book, Lyrics, and Music. Trey Parker and Matt Stone created South Park, while Robert Lopez created the music for Avenue Q. After nearly seven years of collaborative effort The Book of Mormon opened at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in 2011 charming most of the harshest New York critics. The three men had created one of the greatest Broadway hits of all time, grossing nearly $500 million to date.
The plot revolves about a group of teen-aged Mormons who are assigned missionary work to bring the Mormon faith to people around the world. While some draw France and other countries, the brightest star, Elder Price (a phenomenally gifted – and sexy—Liam Tobin) is assigned to Uganda with his teammate being one of the dimmest stars, Elder Cunningham (a very funny Jacob Ben-Shmuel). Of course, Elder Price truly wished to be assigned to the place of his dreams, Orlando, Florida.
Much has been made of the plot which often mercilessly pokes fun at things one would never think could draw a laugh, which include AIDS, female genital mutilation, warlords who shoot a villager point blank in the face, holy scripture shoved up a rectum, maggots in scrotums, and cursing God. It is a testament to the skill, comedic timing, and wit of the three men who wrote The Book of Mormon that it all seems okay. This is especially true during the musical numbers. “Turn It Off,” extols the virtues of turning off evils like spousal abuse, cancer, and homosexual thoughts by just turning them off like a light switch. In “Making Things Up Again,” Elder Cunningham has used his penchant for exaggeration to make the religious text more sexy for the disbelieving villagers by conflating the scripture with Star Wars, Star Trek, and super heroes. Elder Price is tortured for his lapse of faith by having a “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” where Lord Lucifer plays guitar and is aided by the dancing Adolf Hitler, Johnnie Cochran, and Jeffrey Dahmer who want Elder Price to join them. Reminiscent of “The Small House of Uncle Thomas” from The King and I, the villagers stage a pageant for the Mormon Elders, “Joseph Smith, American Moses,” which culminates in Jesus Christ having a yard-long phallus which also sprouts from all the males after Mormon baptism.
The large cast is uniformly fine, the choreography by Casey Nicholaw is effervescent, and direction by both Mr. Nicholaw and Trey Parker are spot-on perfect. So, for Heaven’s sake, see The Book of Mormon.
Broadway Philadelphia at the Kimmel Center presents the touring company of The Book of Mormon until June 9 at the Academy of Music, 240 South Broad Street, Philadelphia. For more information call 215-893-1999 or visit www.kimmelcenter.org .