‘The Book of Mormon’: I believe
The Tony Award winning musical is a must-see, but you'll probably need to wait until 2013
August 20, 2012 | 2:12 pm
(Updated: February 25, 2013 | 12:21 pm)
It’s rare that I’m able to take in a musical at the Denver Center of Performing Arts without any preconceived notions or expectations. Most of the shows that come through Denver have either been here before, or at the very least, I’ve seen some adaption by either a local company or movie.
The Book of Mormon was different. Knowing there was a lot of buzz about the show, I went out of my way to keep my head in the sand in order to keep the kick-off of the national tour of the Tony Award winning musical as authentic as possible.
The only frame of reference I had before nestling into my seat at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House was South Park, the rude, crude and totally unacceptable cartoon created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who are the driving force behind Book of Mormon. That, and their movie Team America: World Police.
It’s a blessing and a curse that I grew up with Stan, Kyle, Eric and Kenny. For example, when the cast sings about AIDS or female mutilation, I’m not shocked. When a gay Hitler parades around the stage in a nightmare sequence, I’m not phased. When an African tribe retells the story of Joseph Smith with the unique twist of fucking frogs to cure AIDS, I’m not taken aback.
But, I’m also bored. I’ve seen this before. I can turn on any rerun of South Park and get the same results: the satisfaction that I’m laughing at something I shouldn’t be laughing at.
I have two very simple — and very gay — litmus tests when it comes to evaluating musicals. First, does the story invoke an emotional response, ergo a tear in the eye. Second, do I leave humming a showstopper.
Despite the retelling of every joke Parker and Stone have ever told in the first act, The Book of Mormon not only met, but passed with flying colors, both tests by time the final curtain was called. Here’s how.
Besides being two of the most offensive comedians of the modern era, Stone and Parker also have the uncanny ability to re-frame and explore controversial topics. They’ll push you out of the plane you call “my reality” without a parachute, but will also provide a nice cushy air mattress to land on.
Their humor, their philosophy is trademarked. It might be a sticking pile of shit — and I mean that in the most endearing way — but it’s also fabulously gift wrapped with a nice bow.
In The Book of Mormon, Parker and Stone explore what would happen if two 19-year-old Mormon missionaries were sent to spread their message of salvation to one of the most hopeless destinations in the world: Uganda, Africa.
Elder Kevin Price is handsome, studious, popular, the archetype of what every Mormon adolescent should be. Arnold Cunningham is everything Price isn’t: chubby, a slacker, and has no friends except his overactive imagination. After completing their training the duo is shipped off to join their brothers who have, so far, not converted a single Ugandan.
From there Price and Cunningham are robbed, have their faith tested, are shot at and are told exactly where they can put their religion.
Along the way, our hero falls, our sidekick rises — albeit with questionable tactics — and in the end you’re reminded why religion, faith and all their metaphors — no matter how ridiculous or false — are important. Stand out numbers include “Man up,” “I Believe,” “Baptize Me,” and “Tomorrow is a Latter Day.”
The national tour of The Book of Mormon features amazing talent.
Gavin Creel (Elder Price) has starred in Hair, Thoroughly Modern Millie and La Cage Aux Folles. He received a Tony nomination for his role in Modern. He’s equal parts self-confidence and self-doubt. And the war inside of him is masterfully acted down to whipping of sweat with a handkerchief.
Jared Gertner (Elder Cunningham) was the standby for the same character for the Original Broadway cast and eventually took over the role there. He’s affable and enduring. His heart is always in the right place.
Samantha Marie Ware (Nabulugnig) — the heart and soul of the story — debuted in Vegas with the role of Nala in Disney’s The Lion King. Her solo, “Sal Tlayka Siti,” warms your heart in the same fashion as “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables.
The supporting cast, blocking, set production, orchestra are all top notch.
In the end, while the Church of Trey Parker and Matt Stone can be as easily dismissed as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the duo has created a masterpiece that has made me a true believer.
Tickets via a lottery are available two and a half a hours prior to each performance. Each person will print their name and the number of tickets — limited to two — on a card that is provided. Two hours before curtain, names will be drawn at random for a limited number of $25 tickets. The show’s run ends Sept. 2.
The Book of Mormon will return to Denver in October of 2013. Tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Jan. 22. You’ll want to be the first in line.