Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Broadway in Tucson Review: "The Book of Mormon"

Whether the medium is TV, film, video games or the stage, Trey Parker and Matt Stone are masters of good-natured yet biting satire. They disregard the rules in favor of their own brand of poetic, musical justice, and deliver their voice with a lighthearted yet severe vengeance.

In "The Book of Mormon" musical, the "South Park" duo teams with the incomparable double EGOT-winner Robert Lopez to unleash a mockery of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although the material is incisive and unforgiving, it never comes close to cruelty. Throbbing behind the riotously ridiculous song-and-dance numbers is an earnest respect for faith and zealotry no matter how misguided it may be perceived by outsiders.

The story follows mismatched Mormon missionaries as they travel to Uganda in order to try to convert a misfit, war-torn, poverty and famine-ravaged village to their One True Faith. The protagonists struggle with their own insecurities and weaknesses as they stumble through their mandate to bring the message to the unwelcoming masses by any means necessary.

Liam Tobin plays cocksure Elder Price with oblivious panache, and scene-swiping Jordan Matthew Brown is an apt complement as his awkward, needy sidekick, Elder Cunningham.

The stagecraft, particularly in the "Spooky Mormon Hell" nightmare interlude, is strikingly outlandish. Bouncy, catchy tunes, pitch-perfect delivery of wickedly funny jokes and dance moves characterize the production. It's easy to catch you and the people next to you laughing so hard that you'll miss the next joke.

The exuberance of the clapping, jubilant crowd in awe of the soaringly hilarious sermon onstage makes for a religious experience.

"The Book of Mormon" plays at Centennial Hall through Sunday. Buy tickets here.

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