That Sacred Stone's first name is Matt... Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the comedic geniuses behind the hit animated television show, South Park, have taken their satirical edginess all the way to Broadway, with a new musical that has "Tony" written all over it.
The Book of Mormon the Musical is everything you'd expect from Stone and Parker. It is hilariously witty and incredibly, incredibly offensive, just like a good religious satire should be. I was laughing before the show even began, as the pre-curtain set reminded me of the cover of this Asteroids Galaxy Tour album, and I just knew that I was about to see something out of this world.
The cast of characters includes a cameo by the Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith, known for uncovering, in good old "ancient America" (upstate New York to be exact), the sacred gold plates that detailed the Book of Mormon, as shown to him by the angel Moroni, who also has a recurring part in the show. Of course, Stone and Parker could not resist adding other well known historical figures such as Mormon himself, Jesus and... well, a whole lot of scary folk you'll recognize in one of the most interesting and bizarre musical numbers of the show, "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream."
The show follows two mismatched Mormon missionary trainees, "Elder Price" (played by actor Andrew Rannels) and "Elder Cunningham" (played by actor and comedian Josh Gad) as they embark on a proselytizing journey to Uganda. What happens along the way is often so shocking that I am left gaping, mouth-opened, in amazement that this is actually occurring on stage in front of me. The entire time, I and the rest of the audience are also chuckling uproariously. Remember the South Park episode about Scientology, or the epic movie, Bigger Longer & Uncut? This play is like that, times ten, and it's a musical comedy about Mormonism.
Elder Price represents the epitome of what a young Mormon should be. He is charming, professional, slim, good looking and angelic, with slick-backed hair and an even slicker grasp of his religion and what it expects of him. Enter Elder Cunningham, an awkward, heavyset, bubbly, boisterous, kid-like trainee with a sci-fi infused imagination that runs wild, and a clingy affect that draws him to Elder Price quicker than white on rice, much to Elder Price's dismay. Nevertheless, the two must come together to convince the struggling, impoverished Ugandans to subscribe to the eponymous Book of Mormon and become baptized. Mezzo-soprano Nikki M. James plays the beautiful Ugandan, "Nabulungi," and stuns the audience with her spectacular singing talent and wide-eyed innocence.
The show addresses such hot topics as sex, love, religion, racism, AIDS, overlord dictators, politics, history and technology, and by the end of the show, my body was aching from laughing so hard for so long. Before the main actors have even emerged for their curtain call, the entire house is up in a standing ovation.
I wish I could be more specific but the creators of the show purposefully left out any real explanation or even a list of songs in the playbill, and for very good reason. Just come to this dirty, raucous, racy musical with an open mind, and The Book of Mormon will certainly convert you into a fan. Just remember, tomorrow is a latter day...
The Book of Mormon is currently playing at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre, located at 230 W. 49th Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues. Tickets may be purchased at the theatre's box office, on-line at telecharge.com, or by phone at (212) 239-6200 or (800) 432-7780. A limited number of tickets are also offered each day for only $32 each, via a box office lottery system two-and-a-half hours prior to each performance.