Recently the wife and I hired a babysitter (also known as grandma) and headed out to see "The Book of Mormon" i.e. that Broadway musical by the South Park guys (Trey Parker and Matt Stone) and one the of the Avenue Q guys (Robert Lopez). It opened last year to great reviews and won 9 Tony Awards. Since then it's become the hottest ticket in town, with a nearly $40 million advance. Fortunately we were able to get tickets and, I'm happy to report, it's as good as the hype.
Set in the present, "The Book of Mormon" concerns two young, rather dull witted 19 year old Mormons named Elder Price and Elder Cunningham sent on their two-year mission to Uganda. Idealistic, naive, and not really understanding the word of God they have been sent to propagate, the two missionaries find themselves trying to save the souls -- and lives -- of a group of Ugandans in a tiny village who are under siege from a horrible warlord. Racked by doubts and insecurities, Price and Cunningham do all they can to convert the poor Uganda while also questioning the very faith they have been raised in and sent to spread. Needless to say, much hilarity ensues and the show has a sweet, very satisfying ending.
While a send-up of the Mormon religion, "The Book of Mormon" is not an anti-religious screed. Quite the opposite. It is an exploration of the nature of faith, what it means to worship something bigger than ourselves, and how this gives us the power of love, understanding, and forgiveness.
"The Book of Mormon" is big hearted show, one that loves and respects its audience. It has an amazing cast and great, hilarious songs. Josh Gad stars as Elder Cunningham, an awkward, shy young man who has problems with the truth. Elder Price is played by the amazing Andrew Rannells who begins the show as a cocky missionary but undergoes a most humbling transition. Also great is Nikki M. James who plays Nabulungi, the young Uganda girl who falls under the spell of Price and Cunningham. Her loving, protective, and gut-bustingly funny father is played by Michael Potts who I had the pleasure of seeing a few years ago in Grey Gardens. The rest of the supporting cast is great too, their singing and dancing skills the best I've probably ever seen in a show (and I've seen the original A Chorus Line and The Producers). You can tell that the cast loves the show and the joy they produce is infectious.
Some of the show's best songs are "You and Me (But Mostly Me)", "Hasa Diga Eebowai", "I Believe", "American Prophet", and "Spooky Mormon Hell". You can find them YouTube.
The show came under some scrutiny when it opened last year because it is, in a word, a little dirty. There's some cursing, some very un-PC humor, and some disturbing subject matter. But, if you can handle that, "The Book of Mormon" is well worth seeing.
And remember, tomorrow is a Latter day.