Skip to main content

Book of Mormon Rocks Pantages

mormon

The Book of Mormon, a game changing musical pitched at Gen X and the Millennials, captured nine Tonys, including Best Musical, when it opened on Broadway in 2011. It's still SRO in New York and has been on tour ever since. This week the third national touring show hit the Pantages Theatre.

As a newbie, it was clear the audience was filled with the Faithful-South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone's flock. The show, created by the team with songwriter Robert Lopez (Avenue Q and Frozen), was directed by Parker and Casey Nicholaw and choreographed by Nicholaw.

As broad as a cartoon, the show is a non-stop farrago of amped-up funny numbers—acerbic lyrics amid plush Broadway arrangements like Mel Brooks on steroids.

As broad as a cartoon, the show is a non-stop farrago of amped-up funny numbers—acerbic lyrics amid plush Broadway arrangements like Mel Brooks on steroids.

The show's opening number HELLO, a sort of full chorus homage to the Telephone Hour in Bye Bye Birdie, introduces the graduating class of new Missionaries, each ringing door bells and trying to give away a free copy of the Book Of Mormon. "Hello! My name is Elder Young. Did you know that Jesus lived here in the U.S.A.?"

These well groomed lads, whose perfect hair and slick smiles resist the inevitable doors slammed in their faces, endure the training, only Elder Cunningham (who's never actually read the boring book) squirms under instruction.

The chorus of Mormons, perpetually joyous, grinning from ear to ear (no-one has a more insistent smile than Elder Price) high-kick their way through infectious choreography by Casey Nicholaw, bringing the house down.

The story tracks two young Mormons, an odd couple joined at the hip for their first Mission.

mormon-350

Elder Price (Gabe Gibbs), the Mormon's Mission Training Center's top student, a squeaky clean irritatingly self-important kid who believes in the Church because it, and all his teachers, and fellow students and his parents believe in him: and Elder Cunningham (Conner Peirson), the overweight unpopular kid, too eager to please.

Pampered Price is so optimistic it hurts. In TWO BY TWO Elder Price looks forward to his " chance to go out and help heal the world...I know my mission will be Something incredible!

In fact "Something Incredible" is his mantra, a repeat hook reminiscent of POPULAR in WICKED, wonderfully sung in Gabe Gibbs's strong voice.

There's also the closeted Elder McKinley (brassy PJ Adzima) who has a show-stopping turn in TURN IT OFf, Just suppress all pesky feelings with the on-off switch and plastered smile.

"Like a light switch, shut it off!
Now he isn't gay anymore!"

While other graduates get posted to dream locations like Paris and Japan, Elder Price dreams of Orlando, a manicured fantasyland he visited as a boy. Elder Cunningham, a compulsive liar, just dreams of having a friend.

The Ace and the Loser commit to their partnership in the clever YOU AND ME BUT MOSTLY ME

Elder Price- You and me-but mostly me, Are gonna change the world forever. Cause I can do most anything!

Elder Cuningham-And I can stand next to you and WATCH!

Together they are off to Uganda, to a most un-PC village of unemployed, dirt poor, AIDS-riddled layabouts who try to keep out of the sights of the vicious local warlord General Butt-Fucking-Naked (Oge Agulule), and avoid female genital mutilation.

The show is full of Parker and Stone's signature foul jokes; Village elder Mutumbo got "caught last week trying to RAPE a baby" (thought to be a cure for AIDS); everyone in the village, including the doctor, has AIDS, and he wanders around moaning about maggots in his scrotum.

The villagers teach the boys and the resident missionaries their local saying HASA-DIGA EEBOWAI. Once the enthusiastic Mormons join in, they learn they've been singing f*ck you to Heavenly Father.

When the shock of their surroundings has passed, the boys celebrate their partnership in the sweet harmonic lullaby, I AM HERE FOR YOU.

"Sleep now, little buddy.
Throw your cares away.
Nappy with a happy face.
tomorrow's a latter day."

The chief's daughter Nabulungi (velvet-voiced Leanne Robinson), is a fetching innocent with a dream of getting to the states. in SAL TLAY KA SITI (Salt Lake City) she imagines: "Sal Tlay Ka Siti

Scroll to Continue

Recommended for You

Not just a story mama told
But a village in Ooh-Tah
Where the roofs are thatched with gold.
The war-lords there are friendly
They help you cross the street
And there’s a Red Cross on every corner
With all the flour you can eat!"

And to get there, she just has to "follow that white boy"..

Nabulungi sets her sights on charismatic Elder Price, but when he fails to win over the locals, gentle Elder Cunningham becomes the object of her fancy.

mormon-621

Lauded by the defeated local missionaries and seen as the answer to their prayers, Elder Price fails to win converts in ALL AMERICAN PROPHET ' "The blonde-haired, Blue-eyed voice of God!... God's favorite prophet was...All-American!"

When Elder Price loses faith, he decides to take off for Orlando. Elder Cunningham steps up to the plate in the powerful MAN UP. Like Jesus, who "crawled up on that cross" and 'manned up", Cunningham grows a pair, and his fat boy dance moves electrify.

MAKING THINGS UP AGAIN is a tour de force as Elder Cunningham feeds the superstitious villagers everything they want to hear, mixed with his own pop references from Star Wars and The Lords Of the Rings. He deters the habit of raping babies with a scriptural exhortation to lay with a frog. and, in his version of the BOOK "a clitoris is holy amongst ALL things."

Elder Price, guilt struck for walking out on his partner suffers a drink-induced nightmare SPOOKY MORMON HELL DREAM straight out of a Max Fleischer cartoon, replete with dancing demons with giant floppy hands and feet and a chorus of baddies, Hitler, Genghis Khan, Jeffrey Daumer and Johnnie Cochran ("I got O.J. freed!")

In I BELIEVE, another funny list song, ("I believe that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri... by gosh-a Mormon just believes!") , Elder Price recommits to save the world, despite watching General Butt-Fucking-Naked shoot someone in the face.

Elder Cunningham gets to baptize the first convert, Nabulungi, and gets the girl, in the arousing duet BAPTISE ME, starting a run on baptisms.

Despite their intimacy (the best thing that's ever happened to him) chauvinist Cunningham just can't get her name right, calling her Neutragena, Nabisco, even Nicki Menaj whenever he refers to her.

After Elder Cunningham's wildly improvisational version of the doctrine wins over the entire village , including the crazed warlord General Butt-Fucking-Naked, very single villager (including the warlord) convert.

The Missionaries have a makeover in the hilarious list song I AM AFRICA. Becoming one with Africa they espouse "We are the winds of the Serentgeti,
We are the sweat of the jungle man, We are the tears of Nelson Mandela, We are the lost boy of the Sudan. Africans are African, But we are A-Frica!"!

Word gets back to Mission headquarters. Elder Cunningham has turned the Mission around. The President Of The Mission jets in to congratulate them as the most successful Mission in Africa.

Before Elders Cunnngham or Price can stop them, the newly baptised Latter Day Saints perform their version of The Book of Mormon. for the President of the MIssion (Ron Boehmer).

In an homage to another Lost In Translation show within a show, the costumed villagers mount their foul-mouthed origin story JOSEPH SMITH AMERICAN MOSES SMITH, with all the stylized brio of Jerome Robbins's The Small House OF Uncle Thomas Ballet (in the King And I), embellished with raunchy scatological sight gags. The Prez and his entourage watch aghast.

Although the President of the Mission orders the local missionaries home, they refuse to go.

Their new converts, going hut to hut with their handmade books, preach "Have you heard the story of our prophet Arnold Cunningham?" in TOMORROW IS A LATTER DAY.

Ron Bohmer amuses as Price's father, the Mormon Voice and the President of the Mission. Brit-born newcomer Leanne Robinson is a star in the making.

Scott Pask’s witty scenic tricks, including his jewel box history lessons, and Ann Roth’s satiric costumes add to the fun. Conductor/ keyboardist Alan Bukowiecki conducted his 11-piece orchestra with fiery concentration.

Alas, I strained for some of the lyrics, drowned out by the balance music and sound design.

The sanguine Church Of Latter Day Saints, took out a full page ad in the Program, "Our version is sliiiightly different. The musical is entertaining. The Book? It's life changing." Good sports.

robin-menken-227

The Book of Mormon national tour at Hollywood Pantages Theatre for tickets, call call 800-982-2787 or visit Pantages ($25 tickets available at pre-show lottery.)

Robin Menken