BWW Review: THE BOOK OF MORMON at Shea's Buffalo Theatre
With a book, lyrics and music by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone, THE BOOK OF MORMON follows 2 newly trained young elders out in the world - one is the handsome and self assured Elder Price, and the other a nerdish overweight self proclaimed liar, Elder Cunningham. Price has aspirations to visit his dream city of all cities,Orlando, while Cunningham is happy to go anywhere with his new and only friend. The duo's first deployment turns out to be Uganda, basically as far away from Orlando's Disney World as possible.
Director/Choreographer Casey Nicholaw stages the evening with ebullient energy, finding jokes that read straight out of the book of Mormon itself. Plenty of wide eyed grins among the elders, some frenetic choreography and zany costumes by Ann Roth allow the show to pack a wallop from start to finish. The opening number "Hello" is gleeful as each of the new elders rings those doorbells, puts on that Mormon boy grin and starts his sales pitch. This particular cast has so many fabulous individual personalities that each shine through, thanks to differences in stature, voice type and knock out stage presence.
Liam Tobin is brilliant as Elder Price, with squeaky clean good looks and a smile that could rival that of any Jim Carrey. Tobin has a strong cutting tenor voice and enough cocky self assurance to make him the model Mormon. Meanwhile Jordan Matthew Brown as Elder Cunningham is the perfect antithesis to everything Price is- short, awkward and graceless- in other words, perfect for the role. Brown has a constant air of spontaneity that makes him both endearing and amusingly annoying. The two read as a present day Laurel and Hardy.
Kayla Pecchioni is Nabulungi, the African woman who welcomes the boys to her village. In a show full of men, Pecchioni gets to shine with a belting voice and charming naivete. Despite an occasional lapse in accent, Ms. Pecchioni's interactions with Elder Cunningham are a highlight, with multiple running jokes regarding the pronunciation of her name (Neosporin, Neutrogena, Necrophilia!!)
The large ensemble revels in the silliness of the plot and has to deliver some of the most outrageously inappropriate lines, full of cursing and sexual references, ever to be heard in public. But the authors take no prisoners, so everyone and every group is a prime target. Andy Huntington Jones is Elder McKinley, the leader of the Elders in Uganda. Jones elicits great laughs as the closeted Mormon boy who suppresses all homosexual tendencies with that "neat little Mormon trick" of turning off all unwanted feeling as simply as flipping a switch. In "Turn it Off" the entire troupe morphs into a sequined tap dancing gaggle of chorus boys in a full blown production number worthy of Busby Berkeley.
The Ugandans are led by Jacques C. Smith as Mafala, who is given the hysterical and jaw droppingly explicit number "Hasa Digo Eebowai." I will have to leave the translation up to the reader, but brace yourself. By the time they all re-enact their understanding of the book of Mormon's teachings in their play "Joseph Smith American Moses" the audience realizes that there is no limit to the zaniness.
The production values are as high as the energy level of this multi-talented cast. Even with a production that has been on the road for years, the quality of the entire production remains world class. So pack all of your preconceived notions of propriety, religion and social graces at the door when you enter, and be prepared for a riotous and raw night of theatre.
THE BOOK OF MORMON plays at Shea's Buffalo Theatre through May 5, 2019. Contact sheas.org for more information.