Posted by: pop-break | April 7, 2011

The Book of Mormon

jason kundrath reviews the new musical from the creators of South Park

The Book Of Mormon
Written by: Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez
Directed by: Trey Parker and Casey Nicholaw
Eugene O’Neill Theater
230 West 49th Street, New York

Andrew Rannells as Elder Price

Trey Parker and Matt Stone — the comic marvels and self-proclaimed “equal-opportunity offenders” behind South Park, Comedy Central’s critically acclaimed, award-winning and highest-rated series since 1997 — have recently unveiled their latest creation to the world: an honest-to-goodness Broadway musical in the grand tradition, complete with show-stopping musical numbers, eye-popping choreography and gut-busting laughs. It also happens to be about Mormons.

The Book Of Mormon has already earned volumes of downright effusive critical praise. John Stewart of The Daily Show said “it’s so good, it makes me angry.” Vogue Magazine simply called it “quite possibly the funniest musical ever.” agrees.

For those familiar with Parker and Stone’s fearless (and at times vulgar) work on South Park, it is easy to imagine that their Broadway debut would be a merciless mocking of all things sacred. But you’d be only half right. Sure, the play may contain a substantial amount of adult language, but while The Book Of Mormon may not be for the faint of heart, it is far from heartless. To the contrary, with the exception of one early song that has blasphemous shock-value in spades, the show is vastly sweet, charming and occasionally heartwarming.

Edler Price (Rannells) and Elder Cunningham (Josh Gad) go to Africa

The story revolves around two painfully mismatched missionary companions. Elder Price (Andrew Rannells) is the handsome, charismatic and ever-hopeful star of the graduating class, and Elder Cunningham (Josh Gad) is the portly, friendless misfit who also happens to be a bit of a liar. Still reeling from his assignment to Elder Cunningham, Elder Price soon finds himself stuck with an even greater challenge: They’re headed to Uganda.

Upon arriving, they find the people of the village are struggling with AIDS, poverty and the constant threat of a murderous warlord, among other serious problems. Price’s perfectly practiced pitch falls flat. The Ugandans have had missionaries in and out of their village for years. (“But those were Christian missionaries!” assures Price. “We’re Mormons!” Price is initially determined, but after a murder in the village, he is looking for his first flight back home. Nabalungi, the village leader’s daughter, portrayed by the dynamic Nikki M. James, turns to Cunningham, eager to learn about The Book Of Mormon and hoping to find an escape from her difficult existence. Without Price to lean on, Cunningham decides to step up to the plate, amping himself up with the hilarious rock ‘n’ roll number “Man Up” — one of many, many highlights throughout the show.

Show-stopping tunes, over-the-top humor and heart abound in The Book Of Mormon

Along the way, you meet Elder McKinley (Rory O’Malley), who is the leader of the mission in Uganda and is also a deeply-closeted homosexual who deals with his impure thoughts (as well as any negative feelings) in a very simple way, hysterically-detailed in the song “Turn It Off.” You also get a good bit of history on the religion itself with appearances by Joseph Smith, the angel Moroni, and Jesus Christ in “All-American Prophet.” But what you really get is song after song of memorable, musically-fantastic numbers, and outrageously funny lyrics — courtesy of Parker, Stone, and co-writer Robert Lopez (of the Tony Award-winning Avenue Q.) In the end, you’ve taken an amazing journey with characters you actually care about.

Like the all the best South Park episodes, there is a greater social context behind the comedy: Even if the mythology of a religion is a load of malarky, the message and the meaning can still have great value. Parker and Stone have called their Book Of Mormon “an atheist’s love letter to religion.” If that sounds contradictory, I highly recommend you find yourself some tickets to this show and witness the impossible. It’s something like a miracle.



  1. you absolutely NAILED IT. Best musical everrrrr.

  2. (saw the following while netting! Hugo)

    Banned Utah Humor !

    (1) Three levels of LDS heaven: celestial, terrestrial, cholesterol !
    (2) LDS houses are painted by Ladder-Day Saints.
    (3) Brigham Young, when looking down on the Salt Lake Valley, said “This is the place.” How come so many folks settled in that valley if he looked down on it?
    (4) Did Adam Swapp get his wives at a Swapp meet?
    (5) New Mormon cat food: 9 Wives !
    (6) What’s a plastic covered Indian? A laminated Lamanite. Of course I’ve known this since I was Nephite to a grasshopper.
    (7) Mormon: Someone who is more man than woman. Is “Mormon” short for “More Money”?
    (8) Mormonism teaches that we can know truth if there is a “burning in the bosom.” Joseph Smith was the first Mormon who had a bosom below his belt !
    (9) Brigham lived in the Lion House which helped him to keep on Lion.
    (10) Utah is the only state where you can spell “Moron” with two m’s. And it’s the only state where the sheep take care of the cattle !

    (Glenn Beck, Jon Huntsman Jr., Warren Jeffs, Thomas Monson, and Mitt Romney did not approve of the above humor.)

  3. Fantastic review! I wouldn’t expect anything less from The Book of Mormon – Matt & Trey’s musical gifts could be seen as far back as South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, which, at the time it was released, was widely regarded as the most hilarious musical ever. I cannot wait to see this.

  4. Outstanding review.

  5. I constantly emailed this blog post page
    to all my associates, as if like to read it after that my contacts will too.

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