|Left: Billy Harrigan Tighe in The Book of Mormon. Photo credit: Johan Persson.
Right: Alexandra Ncube in The Book of Mormon. Photo credit: Joan Marcus
From the creative team at South Park that brought you “Mister Hankey the Christmas Poo” comes The Book of Mormon, a brash send-up of Joseph Smith, the Church of Latter Day Saints and even theater itself.
Heralded as “the best musical of this century” by the notoriously unforgiving New York Times critic Ben Brantley, this show dominated the Tony Awards when it premiered in 2011. Mormon has been motoring along ever since, with touring productions reaching deeper into the hinterland — even playing Salt Lake City! — as a juggernaut carried on waves of ribald comedy and biting satire.
The show features a book, lyrics and music by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone. Lopez is one of the composers and lyricists for the immeasurably popular Avenue Q as well as its G-rated cousin Frozen. Parker and Stone are the infamous creators of South Park — the late-night animated show that has skewered everyone, from Jesus Christ to Satan, through deliciously juvenile parody.
So why not research and develop a show around Mormonism? What could possibly go wrong?
In fact, a lot went right. After nearly seven years in development, The Book of Mormon burst onto Broadway in 2011, garnering nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, as well as a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album.
The show centers on a strapping young missionary, Elder Kevin Price, whose devotion leads him to convert souls to Mormonism. Price and his classmates at the LDS Church Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, practice ringing doorbells — so, so many doorbells. With their crisp, white button-down shirts, black trousers and absurdly perfect haircuts, these young recruits proselytize their hearts out and then pray, not for lost souls, but for a two-year mission to someplace good, like Orlando. (When these prayers aren’t answered, Price and his hapless mission cohort, Elder Arnold Cunningham, are shipped off to Uganda instead.)
Uganda proves a far cry from Disneyworld, but Price is determined to teach the locals about Joseph Smith. Unfortunately for Price, the locals are, shall we say, resistant. And his colleague Cunningham, who has never actually read the Book of Mormon, isn’t much help at all. Mirth ensues.
Nutty, profane and ridiculously funny, Book of Mormon is that rare gem: From toe-tapping musical numbers to a script that will keep you on the edge of your seat, this show has it all.
The Book of Mormon plays at the Hult Center Feb. 2-7. Tickets available at the Hult Center box office, hultcenter.org or by calling 682-5000.