‘The Book of Mormon’1/16/2013
When something comes with a warning label, that usually means it’s good (or bad, depending on who you are). The “content advisory” you’ll find on your admission ticket to “The Book of Mormon” musical coming to the Civic Center on Jan. 25 is a sign you’re in for a great show — the No. 1 musical in the country, in fact.
The musical is yet another raunchy brainchild of writers Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who became famous (infamous, to some) for the Comedy Central creation of “South Park.” With the guidance of Tony Award-winning writer Robert Lopez (“Avenue Q”), Stone and Parker have taken their observational humor riddled in uncomfortable truths — the kind of truth for which the psychological coping mechanism of denial was created — to the Broadway realm. In “South Park,” Stone and Parker took no mercy in the fun they made of… well, everything and everyone, including themselves, but religion was a recurring butt of their jokes.
“The Book of Mormon” has a narrower focus, though, targeting religion and fundamentalist believers — specifically Mormons. The script and songs are contaminated with such foul blasphemy that even some of the actors had doubts they could pull it off in good conscience.
“We’re just not scared,” Parker said of the sensibility he shares with Stone and Lopez, “and not like in an ‘Awesome, we’re fearless’ way. We’re just reckless.”
For the most part, “The Book of Mormon” remains true to what “South Park” fans would expect from Stone and Parker. The story follows two Mormon missionaries to the so-called Godless land of Uganda: Elder Price (Mark Evans) is a do-gooder with a sense of divine righteousness, and Elder Cunningham (Christopher John O’Neill) is a portly nobody who desperately wants to be liked. Upon arrival to the poverty- and AIDS-stricken third world, the upper-class suburbians quickly discover that “Africa is nothing like ‘The Lion King.’ ”
While jabbing at the ribs of Mormonism and God himself, “The Book of Mormon” still manages to stay in the spirit of do good and be good, and in the end good things will happen. In the theatre, that overall good means a collective laughter that will heal any heathen in attendance. The show has proven to be a sell-out production along the west coast, and cast members are confident the Midwestern experiment will mirror that trend.
“I’m very curious to see how Des Moines will take us,” said supporting lead actress from Nebraska, Samantha Marie Ware. “So far on tour, for the first few nights of the show, I think the audiences are in shock. But once people start talking about it and generating a buzz, the audience gets warmer and warmer to the humor.”
It’s fun at God’s expense, Parker said, and He can take it.
“He certainly can dish it out,” Stone added. CV
Can’t afford the $77-$104 ticket price? “The Book of Mormon” is offering a ticket lottery before the show: Stand in line, put your name in the hat, and you could win two front-row seats.