Review: THE BOOK OF MORMON at Majestic Theatre

What did our critic think of THE BOOK OF MORMON at Majestic Theatre?

By: Apr. 09, 2024
Review: THE BOOK OF MORMON at Majestic Theatre
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I saw this show for the first time in New York almost ten years ago. It was so popular then, having won nine Tony Awards just a few years before that. Last weekend, I saw The Book of Mormon in San Antonio at the beautiful Majestic Theatre (@MAJESTICTHEATRE), and I wondered how it would hold up to my NYC experience.

It held up.

I wasn’t sure at first, as they had to stop the show due to some technical issues. As a former high school theatre director, I’ve had my share of mic-cutting-out problems, but you don’t usually get that at a professional venue. It was all I could do to stay in my seat and not try to go help solve the problem, but I stayed. And once they got the show rolling again, I was even more impressed. The way the performers were able to keep up the energy level despite the problems made the audience almost completely forget anything happened. That, and maybe the controversial content of the show.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset about the content. At all. The South Park writers, Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone, who wrote this musical, write in a certain…uhumm…sort of way. It’s jolting. And it’s meant to be.

Review: THE BOOK OF MORMON at Majestic Theatre Right after the sound came back on, the missionaries had come to Africa. And in this show, that’s when things get dicey. The story centers around two Mormon missionaries who have been assigned to Uganda. Elder Price is somewhat of a superstar, and everyone expects great things from him. On the other hand, his partner, Elder Cunningham, is an awkward mess who just feels lucky to be partnered with the amazing Elder Price. But as they arrive in Africa, (and just after the show re-started) they realize things are not exactly what they thought. In fact, things are horrible in this village in Uganda. Things are violent. Shocking. Scary. Outright offensive. And the villagers are angry with God; they have no interest in the missionaries’ message. But these guys are supposed to get as many baptisms as they can, and so begins their plight. In the midst of all the villagers’ rejections comes one ray of hope, the leader’s daughter, Nabulungi. She wants the peace and hope the missionaries offer, and her curiosity spreads through the village. When Elder Cunningham, who really has no idea what The Book of Mormon even says, is tasked with helping her convince the villagers, he lies about what the book says, creating some questionable doctrine. This doctrine, along with the villagers’ hatred of God, has formed the basis for much of the scrutiny of this play and why people have walked out or spoken out about it.

The touring cast was unbelievably talented and brought a freshness to the production. They provided a nice balance between giving the audience what they were expecting from such a beloved show and providing some nuance that gave the show a new spark.

Review: THE BOOK OF MORMON at Majestic Theatre

Sam Nackman played a fun and lovable Elder Cunningham, while Sam McLellan soared in his big vocal moments as Elder Price. Keke Nesbitt, as Nabulungi, held our hearts every time she sang and carried such a bright authenticity in her performance. Between the vivacious character choices and the tap dancing, Sean Casey Flanagan, as Elder McKinley, was the clear star of the night. 

Review: THE BOOK OF MORMON at Majestic Theatre

I hear critics often say of this show that the audience just likes the raunchiness, but I disagree. I mean, yes, people tend to react to raunchy material, but this show is much more than that. The music develops the story in a profound and meaningful way throughout, highlighted and emphasized by the perfect harmonies and precision of the ensemble numbers. More, I think people connect with the moments where the missionaries, particularly Elder Price, realize that, even though they talk of wanting to “save the people,” and “do good for others,” they are really there with selfish motivations. They want to be heroic among their peers--and for the church. They want God to be happy with them and reward them. Ultimately, though, the Mormon missionaries realize that they have it all wrong. Their mission is about helping these people. About finding a way to meet them where they are and introduce them to God. When this happens--however crazy, offensive, and inaccurate the details--the people do find God. And they become united. Peaceful. Loving. They might curse God at the beginning of the show, but they are thanking him by the end. And that is the meaning. You don’t get to the peaceful end without the offensive beginning. And that is why this show has been selling out for over a decade. It is clever, inspiring, and yes--wildly offensive. 

If you get a chance to see this show, be warned: you will be offended. Try to take the show as a whole and see the beautiful heart that beats beneath the jokes. Who knows? Maybe The Book of Mormon will change your life.

Photo cred: Julieta Cervantes 




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