By Darlene Donloe
Oh, my! Is there a more outrageous play?!
Everything I’ve heard about The Book of Mormon is true. It’s blasphemous, raunchy, offensive, vulgar and, yes, downright funny.
The nine-time Tony Award®-winning, Best Musical is about a pair of Mormon missionaries sent to Uganda, of all places, to convert the citizens to the Mormon religion. The show, which satirizes various Mormon beliefs and practices, is currently enjoying a run at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, through July 9.
So the story goes something like this. There are two missionaries, who would otherwise really have nothing to do with the other. One is a bit of a nerd and the other is one of those preppy types who was probably born with a silver spoon. The preppy Bible devotee was hoping to be sent to Orlando, Florida, so imagine his disappointment when he is sent to a poor African nation with a nerd as his partner. Well, of course, chaos, insanity and hilarity ensues.
The send up, which was first staged in 2011, is directed by Casey Nicholaw, who also choreographed the show. The book, music and lyrics are by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Robert Lopez, the composer of Avenue Q.
The Book of Mormon, which is and isn’t about religion, is not for prudes or anyone who is easily offended. If you are a prude or someone easily offended, prepare the have your mouth drop open in disbelief and pure shock through the entire show. It’s an equal opportunity offender that waxes in-your-face insults to everyone from Mormons to Christians, Blacks, whites, gays, Jews and everyone in between. Most of the laughs come at the expense of Mormons. The creators do a pretty good job in ripping the origins of Mormonism. There are plenty of sex jokes, scrotum maggots and plenty of profanity. Nothing and no one is off limits.
Photo by Joan Marcus
Most of the musical numbers are entertaining and comical. That being said, there are a couple songs that go wayyyyy over the line. For instance: the African song Hasa Diga Eebowai that translates to F*ck You God goes a bit too far and makes for a bit of discomfort when the black actors give the middle finger to God.
In this part of Africa, we all have a saying
Whenever something bad happens
We just throw our hands to the sky and say
"Hasa Diga Eebowai"
Excuse me sir
But what exactly does that phrase mean?
Well, let's see, Eebowai means "God"
And Hasa Diga means "F*ck you"
So I guess in English it would be, "F*ck you, God"
Those lyrics give being sacrilegious a bad name!
But, that’s the point of the show. The point is to insult and shock.
Other uncomfortable moments include dialogue from a grown man who, on several occasions, speaks of f*cking a baby in order to rid himself of AIDS (a notion that is, unfortunately, prevalent in some African nations). Then there’s the scene where the African men are wearing pronounced big, black penises and simulating having intercourse in various sexual positions. Of course, it plays into the stereotype (wink, wink).
Yes, it’s supposed to be off-colored (pun-intended) and politically incorrect, but a couple of the bits are still too risqué.
However, overall the show is a blast. The music, high-energy dance numbers, witty dialogue and overall off-center foundation make the show a winner. The show is enhanced with scenes that feature cameos from Yoda, Darth Vader, Lieutenant Uhura, Jesus, satan and, of course, Joseph Smith who published The Book of Mormon in 1830. The songs, nothing short of brilliant and sidesplitting are also witty and smart, especially the opener, Hello!, You and Me (But Mostly Me), Turn It Off, I Believe, Man Up and Baptize Me. The creators of this show even manage to make Baptism sound dirty and sordid. **sigh**
The cast is exceptional, especially the principals.
Gabe Gibbs, who plays the preppy missionary Elder Price, who is convinced “A Mormon just believes,” and Conner Peirson as the nerdy missionary, Elder Cunningham, are a perfect pairing. Leanne Robinson is a delight in the role of Nabulungi, a young female villager who wants more out of life. PJ Adzima, who plays Mormon outreach worker Elder McKinley, steals the show every time he’s on stage.
|Photo by Joan Marcus|
Kudos to Nicholaw’s choreography, which is tight, flighty and amusing and to Scott Pask on his scenic design. Ann Roth’s costume design is on point as is the lighting design by Brian MacDevitt, sound design by Brian Ronan, orchestrations by Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus and music direction and vocal arrangements by Stephen Oremus.
The show stings and is a bit of an indictment on everything Mormon. But, at its core, it’s a coming of age story, wrapped in a race-tinged, spit-shined, sexually political musical.
The Book of Mormon is a $%*&@*, priceless, no-holds-barred, fun and fiery romp!
The Book of Mormon, Hollywood Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028; Tues. – Fri. at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., through July 9. No Performance on Tues., July 4. Added 2 p.m. matinee on Thursday, July 6. Tickets: HollywoodPantages.com or Ticketmaster.com 1-800-982-2787
CONTAINS EXPLICIT LANGUAGE. Children under the age of 5 are not permitted in the theatre. All patrons entering the theatre, regardless of age, must have a ticket.
Running Time: 2 1/2 hours
On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (oh, yes) and E (excellent), The Book of Mormon gets an E (excellent).