The Book of Mormon
At Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale
Written by “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, “The Book of Mormon” is very much the toe-tapping Broadway equivalent of the duo’s crass, long-running cartoon series. But instead of foul-mouthed Colorado grade-schoolers, Stone and Parker tackle a very different sort of crowd: Mormons.
Elder Price (Ryan Bondy) is the poster child of everything a dedicated young Mormon should be. He’s a shameless overachiever, one who has a habit of singing about how he plans to do “something incredible.” And something incredible is coming his way indeed. When it comes time to be paired up with another young missionary with whom he’ll travel to an exotic new location to convert new members into the Church of Latter Day Saints, Elder Price is paired with his complete opposite: the loud, obnoxious Elder Cunningham (played by understudy Chad Burris on opening night). When the unlikely pair is assigned Uganda as their mission location for the next two years, their faith will be put to the ultimate test.
In many ways, “The Book of Mormon” rejuvenates the language and landscape of Broadway by simultaneously using common Broadway tropes as the butt of their jokes, but also as the show’s very foundation. Take, for instance, the first act number “Turn it Off,” in which Elder McKinley (a fabulous performance from Daxton Bloomquist) sings about suppressing bad thoughts and homosexual urges. It’s a cheeky song that transforms into a glorious tap number, equipped with a whip fast costume change involving sparkly pink vests. Then of course there are the moments when the show gleefully pokes fun at “The Lion King,” such as when the local tribe members welcome the pair to their village by teaching them a new saying that’s not quite as family-friendly as “Hakuna Matata.”
Profanity and taboo topics color most of the show's runtime, with frequent mentions of AIDS, baby rape, frog fornication, evil war lords, and genital mutilation. That may not seem like the makings for a hysterical night out, but in Stone and Parker’s hands, it’s politically incorrect gold.
And it’s that boldness - that complete lack of fear when it comes to pushing the envelope - that makes “The Book of Mormon” a treasure. Accomplishing a delicate balancing act between skewering and celebrating religion, “The Book of Mormon” turns out to be just as sweet as it is crude. When local villager Nabulungi (Candace Quarrels) sings her powerhouse solo “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” (pronounced “Salt Lake City”), it’s no surprise that it’s funny. But as she sings this hopeful ballad about finding a paradise that will turn her life around, you’ll find yourself shocked at how emotionally potent the number is at the same time. And it’s that irresistible combination, mixed with legitimate non-stop belly laughs, that makes “The Book of Mormon” a modern Broadway classic.
“The Book of Mormon” is playing at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts until February 7th. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.BrowardCenter.org.