BWW Review: An Ex-Mo Reviews THE BOOK OF MORMON (the Musical; Not the Book) in Sal Tlay Ka Siti
Hello. My name is Elder Howell. I would like to share with you this review of an amazing show.
Hello. It's an awesome musical satirizing Mormon missionaries.
Ooops! While "Mormon" was widely embraced for many years, suddenly "God is offended" and it's "a major victory for Satan" when the word is employed as a shorthand substitute.
I was once a proselytizing missionary, but that was a lifetime ago -- before the realization that there is no divine guidance leading the organization.
I'm now an Ex-Mo, a current popular phrase for awoken former members of the TSCC (the so-called church). Seeing THE BOOK OF MORMON musical with an audience full of TBMs (true-believing Mormons) and Ex-Mos, who deeply understand the farcical culture the musical skewers, a wholly unique experience. It's something incredible.
In Utah the show's run time is longer than at other performances, with the robust, sidesplitting laughs. It's hard to imagine another comedy achieving higher decibel levels from Eccles Theater audiences. And there are ushers who refuse to sit within the theater during performances.
The uproarious applause and cheers begin as soon as the gilded Angel Moroni is spotlighted atop the temple façade proscenium. When the backdrop is revealed illustrating popular landmarks, the crowd goes crazy.
Matt Stone, one of the show's creators of "South Park" fame, described the musical as "an atheist's love letter to religion," not a mockery of the faith. The naiveté of youngsters beginning at age 19 preaching about TSCC is an easy target, yet hysterically aimed.
As the pompous Elder Price and the stumpy, best friend-seeking Elder Cunningham, Liam Tobin and Jordan Matthew Brown, respectively, both veterans of the Broadway cast, are perfectly broadly comic as the mismatched companionship -- or "brother elders" as incorrectly labeled in the script.
In "You and Me (But Mostly Me)," Tobin attacks the lyrics with ferocity. Brown is sardonically sincere in "Baptize Me" with Alyah Chanelle Scott, an appealing Nabulungi (or Bon Jovi, Neosporin, Neutrogena, Necrophilia, Nintendo 64, Nicki Minaj, Nissan Altima, Nala and other assorted names Cunningham mispronounces, which can vary from show to show).
The chorus of ensemble missionaries is uniformly hysterical, especially in "Turn It Off," in which we learn the little Mormon trick, erasing impure thoughts all the way to the view of "acting on homosexuality tendencies" as a sin (that's you, Elder McKinley, well played by Andy Huntington Jones). The magically appearing, sparkling-pink sequin showboy vests in the song's tap-dance sequence are especially entertaining. "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" is marvelously clever with the pitchfork-wielding devils, dancing Starbucks cups and guest appearances by Genghis Khan, Jeffrey Dahmer, Hitler and Johnnie Cochran.
Another notable aspect is the new Tin Angel restaurant inside the Eccles that serves Polygamy Porter Beer and Five Wives Vodka beverages by waiters outfitted in missionary-standard uniforms. Never one to miss an opportunity to playfully lampoon the state, Five Wives purchased a full-page playbill ad with an ersatz Joseph Smith cuddling five pioneer women -- recalling one of the first wagon caravans of 66 men and five women to colonize the barren wasteland.
While the musical first opened in 2011, earning nine Tony Awards including Best Musical, BoM remains deeply entertaining. For those who know the lyrics by heart, it's still fun to anticipate the jokes and relive the show with audiences.
And seeing the show in Salt Lake City: priceless.