(This review was posted to my Facebook page on May 24, 2014)
Quick disclaimer: If you aren’t a fan of raunchy humor, you probably won’t like this play. I mean, it was written by the guys who made South Park, so no big surprise there.
So what’s the story? Well, a group of Mormon are heading out on their missions, and we follow a particularly unlikely team: The highly regarded and respected Elder Price, and compulsive liar and screw-up Elder Cunningham. Price wants desperately to be sent to his favorite place on the planet, Orlando,Florida, but inevitably is sent to Uganda instead. There, they find that the people there are jaded by their many problems (The most prominent of which being that most of them have AIDS and that an evil warlord whose name I don’t dare spoil is oppressing them). The two try to do their best to convert some of the Africans to their religion, but understandably, it’s a hard sell.
A great strength of this musical is the fish-out-of-water story taken to the extreme. Here are two Americans thrown into one of the most hellish places on earth with the job of delivering the word of God, and it becomes exactly as funny as you imagine the South Park writers could make it. It’s rare for a few minutes to go by without a strong laugh, which makes it easy to want to follow. It’s always tough when a play has to struggle to keep your attention, but Book of Mormon has no trouble in that area.
Each set has stark contrast from one another and are extremely appropriate from the training center in Utah to the central location in Uganda to, well, Hell.
On top of that, the choreography is pretty great. It’s not quite on the level of the larger scale music numbers like those in Wicked and Billy Elliot, but they manage to not only put together some pretty creative dance numbers, but also do an excellent job of having large groups of the cast sing in turn; not an easy thing to do, especially on the scale that they do it.
If I have to list one weakness in the musical, it’s that none of the music is going to be an instant classic like Defying Gravity from Wicked or the Cell Block Tango from Chicago. Despite that, I still quite enjoyed the music, and they managed to get a good number of their laughs from the lyrics, which is always tricky. It’s a shame that some of the lyrics were nearly impossible to understand (Some of the dialogue was cut out due to a hiccup with a microphone once or twice as well…)
So in the end, Book of Mormon was a fantastic play, and I’d recommend you check it out if you get a chance. It doesn’t quite make it to my favorite comedy or musical, but it manages a fantastic blend of each element and a unique twist on classic types of stories that I greatly enjoyed.