Those who aren't among the 15,082,028 people (6,398,889 in the United States) in the world's 29,253 congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - the Mormon Church - probably don't know much about that religion. I am one of those people. In fact, the one thing I absolutely believe in is musical theater. I don't claim it as a religion, but I do claim it can cure a host of ills and know that its devotees are fervid in their faith in the curative power of a good musical. I am supremely grateful that I saw my first Broadway show at the age of 5 and that my faith in that art form has never wavered in the least. Now, The Book of Mormon has reinforced that faith.

The Book of Mormon has taken up residency at the wonderful Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas now through July 6. This is another show that made the journey from Broadway to Las Vegas without losing one iota of those qualities that made it a smash. It is wonderful.

With book, music and lyrics by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, along with Robert Lopez, choreography by Casey Nicholaw and direction by Nicholaw and Parker, the show leave the audience cheering.

It is the story of Elder Price (David Larsen) and Elder Cunningham (Cody Jamison Strand) who leave the USA to go on the required Church mission with other Elders, all of them, in fact, young men. Price and Cunningham are sent to Uganda, where the mission has not succeeded in converting a single person. Not to do so means they fail in their work for the Church and failure is unacceptable. The only villager in Uganda who seems to understand is Nabulungi, a beautiful young woman who is the daughter of the chief.

The plot of the show is somewhat ridiculous, filled with almost minstrel show-worthy stereotypes and foul language. Yet, it is very well done. It moves quickly, is well sung, well danced and well acted. It represents musical theater - one of two true American art forms (the other being American music - jazz and blues) beautifully presented.

The cast is outstanding. The only quibble anyone I spoke with had with the production at the Smith Center was that it was often difficult to distinguish the words. Whether it was the acoustics (doubtful), the level of the music (a constant "11") or bad hearing on the part of many people, it was something of an issue. On the other had, for me, that really didn't detract from the overall evening.

Lottery for $25 tickets: Entry forms are available 2.5 hours before the show at the box office. The drawing takes place two hours before the show. Entrants must be present to win. One entry per person and valid ID must be shown. Multiple entries will be voided and admission refused. There is a maximum of two tickets available per winning entry.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through July 6 in Reynolds Hall, The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, 361 Symphony Park Ave. Tickets: $49-$160 (702-749-2000

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From This Author Ellen Sterling

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