The one definitive comment you can make about The Book of Mormon (now playing at Atria Theater) is that it will never be duplicated. No one else other than Trey Parker and Matt Stone (creators of the flippant South Park series) and Robert Lopez (co-creator of the hilarious Avenue Q) could have come up with a story this wild and crazy that fires on all cylinders.
The winner of nine Tony Awards, the irreverent religious satire is profane, crude, and absolutely hilarious. It will have you blushing and doubling over in laughter from start to finish. You may even feel bad for falling prey to its spell, but let that pass and just sit back and enjoy the ride.
The show tells the story of its namesake “The Book of Mormon” with a slightly different twist and edge to it. Be sure to check out the playbill with the ad from the Mormon Church that reads “Our version is sliiiightly different.” Oh yeah it is.
The story follows two young Mormons – Elder Price and Elder Cunningham – who have been paired together to go to Uganda to teach the locals about God and the Book of Mormon. Elder Price had his sights set on being assigned to Orlando (his dream assignment), but that wasn’t to be. Elder Cunningham, who doesn’t have any friends to his name, is thrilled to be paired with his partner.
Once they reach Uganda, they team up with the other Elders that are already there and set out to teach the word to the locals. What they quickly discover is that the villagers have suffered through everything from an AIDS epidemic to famine and harbor a lot of outward animosity toward God.
Elder Price decides after a little while that this assignment is not for him, and tries to leave to go to Orlando. With him out of the picture for a while, it’s up to Elder Cunningham to step up and try to convert everyone.
Without giving away the entire plot, let’s just say Elder Cunningham has a vivid imagination and brews up a tale of the Mormon origin story that is from another galaxy. The crazy story actually works until the head of the Mormon Church decides to visit and is greeted by a play about the Mormon faith the locals have prepared. Let’s just say it’s not the story he’s used to hearing.
Meanwhile, Elder Price who didn’t go to Orlando after all has been dealing with the General who wants to do terrible things to people even before he sets out to kill them. When Elder Price confronts him the General knows exactly where he wants to stick The Book of Mormon.
The show is an equal offender when it comes to jokes about Christians, Jews, blacks, whites, Chinese, gays, and lesbians. But, buried in all the jokes is the real message, one that speaks to friendship and the conviction to believe in whatever it is you believe. It demonstrates how people can and do change for the better.
The touring production now playing at Altria is perfection. The ensemble cast works as one and never hits a bad note. Voices blend together seamlessly and beautifully. It’s a true Broadway experience.
Gabe Gibbs as Elder Price and Conner Peirson as Elder Cunningham are a casting director’s dream. Their soaring performances hit every mark there is to hit and then more. It’s the perfect pairing. And, each has his moment to shine. One of the most hilarious scenes of the night involves Peirson and the very talented Leanne Robinson who plays Nabulungi one of the villagers that decides to be baptized by Elder Cunningham.
PJ Adzima plays Elder McKinley who tries to bury the fact that he’s gay. His over-the-top performance is a real riot. He has just the right amount of swagger to pull it off.
The Book of Mormon isn’t for everyone, but then nothing is. It is a great, laugh-until-you-can’t-breathe show. It’s one that you can’t miss. Just be sure to come with an open mind and you’ll be fine. The show runs through Sunday at Altria Theater. As you’ve probably guessed, it is not appropriate for anyone eighteen.
For showtimes and tickets, visit Broadway in Richmond.
A word about ticket pick-up: Will-call pick-up is convenient, but it’s important to allow plenty of time to pick up your tickets. No one wants to be stuck in a line when the show starts. We recommend arriving at least a half-hour before the show gets underway.