If you happen to be one of the unfortunates yet to be saved by The Book of Mormon, here’s your golden chance! Not your run-of-the-mill musical, this is a show laced with profanity, seriously offensive stereotypes, and jokes that would make a fifth-grade boy laugh insanely through recess. Trey Parker, Matt Stone (creators of South Park) and Robert Lopez (Avenue Q, Frozen) combine their talents to write the story, lyrics and music of this irreverently funny show. Their sick and twisted satire of Mormonism — the origin story with Joseph Smith, and the young missionaries who knock on doors at distant corners of the planet in order to win converts — is about as good a time as you’ll find in the theater world today.
It’s a coming-of-age story about two young, likeable Mormons on their mission to spread the Lord’s word. Elder Price (Liam Tobin, West Side Story, Shrek) is the shining image of the super-missionary — a Ken doll cutout, Bible devotee, Mormon star in the making with an astonishing vocal range and seemingly unlimited physical stamina. Just his luck that he’s paired with his polar opposite, Elder Cunningham (Jordan Matthew Brown, The 25th…Spelling Bee, Parade) — a socially awkward, bumbling optimistic who is ignorant of his church’s precepts and prone to spinning outrageous lies. To make matters worse, all his life, Price has prayed to be sent to his dream location of Orlando, but God has let him down by sending them to Uganda to proselytize among the natives. Africa, as they quickly discover, is nothing like The Lion King.
After not having any success converting the natives, Elder Cunningham, the endearing liar who hasn’t actually read the Church’s sacred text, wins over the Ugandans by embellishing the scripture with references to Star Wars, Star Trek, and The Lord of the Rings. And presto, a revised version is born and the natives are all on board for a baptism and the exodus to Salt Lake City.
The real heart of The Book of Mormon lies in the idea that even though Mormons believe in something that sounds utterly ludicrous, belief itself has the potential to do amazing things, inspiring hope in the hopeless and changing lives for the better. The musical numbers are filled with references to AIDS, female genitalia, rape, sex with frogs — all the nuggets that go into a hefty serving of blasphemy — and there’s no disguising the white man’s savior syndrome. The outrageous Spooky Mormon Hell number pushes the envelope further by featuring cameos by Hitler, Genghis Khan, Dahmer, and Johnnie Cochran as they frolic around the Devil. Any one of these elements would be shocking, but combining them with a lewd and infectious songbook set to some spellbinding, old-school choreography by Casey Nicholaw and John MacInnis make for a devilish extravaganza. Get ready to be saved!
— Victor Riobo
CTGLA’s The Book of Mormon plays at The Ahmanson Theatre through March 29th. Tickets HERE.