As soon as the buzz got around after the first preview that The Book of Mormon was the funniest musical people had seen since South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, I went immediately to the theatre and purchased tickets. The Book of Mormon is bringing back the long deceased tradition of discount tickets for preview performances, so for just $45 each, I was able to grab a pair of seats in the third row of the rear mezzanine. (Orchestra seats are just $76 each.)
One of my favorite things about going to see a show in previews is the fact that there will (most likely) be no understudies on. This was the case on Thursday night and I was ecstatic. I also wanted to see The Book of Mormon early on in previews so that I could see it in it’s dirtiest, most vulgar and offensive shape. I mean, why else would anyone go to see a show written by the people who brought us South Park and Avenue Q, right?
The Book of Mormon tells the story of two Elders, Elder Cunningham (the lackluster and kind of shitty Elder) and Elder Price (the star Elder), who get sent to a missionary in Uganda upon completing their missionary training. Price had been hoping to get sent to Orland (land of Disney!) and Cunningham is just finally relieved to have a built-in best friend, and hopes that Uganda will maybe be “like The Lion King.” Spoiler: It’s not at all like The Lion King.
After having all of their belongings stolen from them upon arrival by the African warlords, the villagers where they are staying sing a song in their language which loosely translates in English to “Fuck you, God.”
The plot unfolds into Scary Mormon Hell Dreams and the task at hand which is to “save” (convert) these Africans to Mormonism. There’s a happy ending of course, this is a show based on Mormons after all. Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells as the two main Elders are both excellent, as are Michael Potts and Nikki M. James as two of the main tribal members in the story. The ensemble of Mormon missionary boys are also not very hard to pay attention to for two hours – all blonde haired and blue eyed. They’re dreamy, and wonderful dancers and singers.
There is a plethora of AIDS jokes, and rape jokes too. But Stone and Parker are never too mean to the Mormon religion, and only hint at the ridiculousness of it’s origin twice. The opening number in the second act could definitely benefit from being shortened a bit (it felt like it went on and on, and on), and the script could also use some tightening, but overall, this is a finely crafted American musical, with lyrics that will make your jaw drop.
The Book of Mormon is playing at the Eugene O’Neil Theatre on West 49th Street. More information here.