photo by Julieta Cervante
What’s the most offensive thing you can think of? Does it involve sex? Race? A life threatening disease? Countless F-bombs? Religion? All of the above?
If you missed The Book of Mormon last time the show was in Philly, you’re in luck! It’s back- now until June 9th at the Kimmel Center’s Academy of Music. This 2011 Tony Award winner for Best Musical pokes fun at some really serious subjects; nothing is sacred and everything is a joke! The biggest joke in this musical is, of course, the Mormon religion.
The Book of Mormon, written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, follows two Mormon missionaries as they end up in Uganda where they must successfully preach their religion to the locals. Elder Price just wants to make his family and The Church proud. Though he prayed his whole life to end up in the magical land of…Orlando…he was sent to Africa instead. Now, he’s beginning to question if God really listens to someone’s prayers. His partner Elder Cunningham is insecure, yet does his best to look on the bright side of situations. He’s a compulsive liar and just wants to be liked. The young men, along with other missionaries stationed in Uganda, realize they are faced with more than just the task of baptizing a village. They’re throw into a world of AIDS, war lords, famine, just to name a few.
This doesn’t seem like the ingredients for a musical comedy, right? Yet, The Book of Mormon won nine Tony Awards and grossed over $500 million to make it one of the most successful Broadway shows of all time! Co-written by Robert Lopez (Avenue Q, Frozen), and choreography / direction by Casey Nicholaw (Mean Girls, Something Rotten!, The Prom), The Book of Mormon is Broadway gold!
Liam Tobin (Elder Price) and Jacob Ben-Shmuel (Elder Cunningham) were fantastic together in the lead roles at last night’s performance. This is such an animated show and these two actors really played into their characters’ respective mannerisms and personalities. Liam may have more musical credits than Jacob (who is making his national tour debut with The Book of Mormon), but they both went up there with the ease of seasoned performers who know a thing or two about Broadway. They were perfect.
The ensemble of Mormons were all equally hilarious and a lot of fun to watch in their various song and dance numbers. “Turn It Off” is a catchy tune that encourages people to squish down their internal struggles (don’t talk about them, forget about them). Who would have thought that keeping feelings bottled up would be so fun?! Andy Huntington Jones as Elder McKinley, who has a big part in this number, is a hit whenever he’s on stage.
Kayla Pecchioni, as Nabulungi, is sweet and caring as she encourages her fellow villagers to listen to the “white boys” and follow them to Salt Lake City. The entire cast of villagers steal the show as they slowly adapt to the teachings of Elder Cunningham (and his version of the Book of Mormon…which he never actually read). Their duet “Baptize Me” is lovely while still managing to be filled with sexual innuendos. Brilliant!
Love, devotion and service are important elements of the Mormon community, and any other organized religion. While the whole plot of the musical revolves around pointing out the flaws in religious guidelines, the real take away is that what you believe and what you stand for are what matters. Sure, some religious beliefs and stories seem silly. And chances are those stories are just metaphors or don’t have the same meaning for the next person. But as long as you believe strongly about your faith and find peace and happiness with your God, that’s okay. No one else has to believe what you believe. And if they do- great!
You may shake your head in disbelief, while smiling ear to ear, at some of the scenes (“Spooky Mormon Hell Dream”, “Hasa Diga Eebowai”) and dialogue, but the ending musical number nicely wraps up what the show is all about. Passion! You’ll leave the theatre with a warm, fuzzy feeling that you never thought this show would encourage. It’s unlike anything else you’ll see on Broadway, that’s for sure.
If nothing offends you, see this show. If everything offends you, suck it up and see it anyway. Tickets and $25 lottery guidelines can be found here.