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The Book of Mormon

The Elders, Eager for Their Mission

The eager Elders with Elder Price (IU Auditorium)

The Book of Mormon is at the IU Auditorium for eight performances. That’s Tuesday through Sunday in the evenings with afternoon shows on Saturday and Sunday. During Wednesday’s intermission, I heard one enthusiastic man say that, ‘if it was within driving distance,’ he’d like to see it again. The tour’s next stop is in New York City. So, unless he comes back to the Auditorium he’s got a long wait ahead.

The Book of Mormon is the witty concoction of South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone with Avenue Q’s Robert Lopez. Fans of those shows may be disappointed to find no cartoon kids nor puppets, but they will find a musical with well sung creatively arranged catchy songs, characters that you’d like to see again, plenty of near acrobatic dancing and dramatic stage pictures to remember in the weeks to come.

Right from the beginning it’s Liam Tobin as the confident Elder Price, a star among the current class of Elders who’s united with the much less confident Elder Cunningham, Jordan Mathew Brown. Price is first surprised that he’s paired with Cunningham in the song ‘Two by Two,’ but quickly recovers with ‘You and Me (but Mostly Me).’ He’s even more surprised to discover that instead of his dream of ringing bells n Orlando…the home of his fantasy childhood…he’ll be knocking on doors in Uganda.

Once in Africa the twosome quickly learn that the oppressed villagers and the disappointed Elders have each come to terms with the current situation. The villagers sing led by Mafala, Jacques C. Smith ‘Hasa Diga Eedowai,’ loosely translated for this review as ‘f…you God,’ while the Elders have a bit more dignified approach with Andy Huntington Jones as the Elder McKinley advising them to ‘Turn it Off.’

Right at this point it’s time for a bit of Mormon history and Joseph Smith, Ron Bohmer with the angel Moroni, Andy Huntington Jones are all featured with the company and our pair of Elders in a dramatic recounting of the golden tablet in the Garden of Eden with ’All-American Prophet.’

Things between Price and Cunningham have not been going well and Price leaves to let Cunningham work things out on his own. We get a lovely song from Nabulungi, Brinie Wallace and Cunningham in one of his flights of fancy calls on himself to follow Jesus’s example and ‘Man Up.’

Elder Cunningham is on his own and following efforts to toe the company line, he’s ‘Making Things Up Again.’ His account of the history of the faith is putting the villagers to sleep until he mixes in Star Wars characters, Hobbits and anything else that his fertile imagination can conjure. Meanwhile, Elder Price is dreaming that he’s actually gotten his dream gig in Orlando but it turns into one of the evening’s show stoppers with the ‘Spooky Mormon Hell Dream.’ Demons, angels, a truly frightening devil who plays the guitar all appear in a frenetic and frightening dance. How nice that this is the week of Halloween.

This experience puts Price back on track and even as other Elders sympathize he’s ready to sing ‘I Believe’ with true passion. Baptism as advocated by Cunningham is the unified answer to a threat from the local war lord General Butt-F’ing-Naked, Cory Jones. But when the villagers present a drama of their ritual to the visiting Mission President it’s filled with their own ideas and Elder Cunningham’s inventions. It all leads to a priapic scene that would fit nicely in Aristophanes Lyistrata. The President is appalled and orders the Elders home.

Nabulungi, Cunningham’s first convert is devastated but… the villagers are a bit more flexible…they tell her that it’s a metaphor and after all what religion isn’t. Reassured and with  Cunningham and Price convincing the departing Elders to stay and help there’s a party that does a wonderful parody of the opening ‘Hello’ with a mix of Elders and villagers…including the General…knocking on doors and touting Cunningham’s version of the key book.

Wednesday night’s audience gave the show and the cast a well-deserved standing ovation. Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker are credited with directing. The choreography, including a full tap number, is by Casey Nicholaw. Scott Pask is responsible for a set design that uses every trick of the theatre to create playable spaces. Ann Roth created the costumes for the evening. Brian Ronan’s sound design made every word crystal clear.

The Book of Mormon plays each evening through Sunday November 3rd with matinees on Saturday and Sunday.

At the theatre for you, I’m George Walker

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