For those who didn’t read the playbill beforehand, Wednesday evening’s performance of “The Book of Mormon” at the Marcus Performing Arts Center, may have shell-shocked unsuspecting audience members. From the creators of South Park Trey Parker and Matt Stone, with Tony Award winning musical director Robert Lopez, this raunchy, boundary pushing show tests the fundamental values of the Mormon faith. Prospects are told twisted fictional stories of Mormonism founder Joseph Smith’s clitoris face, the magical AIDS frog, salvation from poverty in Salt Lake City and dysentery.
The journey begins in the Missionary Training Center Room 7B with go-getter missionary Elder Price, who has big dreams of changing the world from the magical and wondrous land of….Orlando, Florida, alongside quirky sidekick and compulsive liar, Elder Cunningham. They must trade Epcot dreams for Uganda when they are assigned to a hopeless African village with skeptical prospects.
“Do you lie awake at night and feel a power brewing inside of you and wonder what it is?” asked the missionaries, speaking of the Lord.
“No, that’s just the maggots in my scrotum,” said one such skeptic.
With a constant stream of vulgarity, long penis props simulating oral sex, and guest appearances of Darth Vader, Frodo and some Trekkies, the show is a hodge-podge of hilarious, past borderline sacrilegious acts and ideas. “The Book of Mormon” roasts not only the Mormon faith, but poverty, sexuality, other religions and disease in its display of religious idealism and faith versus the grim realities of others.
After some shaky missed notes right before intermission, lead David Larsen was replaced by Ryan Bondy as Elder Price for the second half of the show. The musical montage featured bawdy songs that kept the audience in stitches with themes like: “It’s time to man up…-like Jesus I’m going to grow a pair,” shutting off your emotions, “turn it off, like a light switch, it’s our nifty little Mormon trick,” and spooky Mormon hell dream songs with Dahmer and Hitler dancing in a fire and brimstone Mormon purgatory.
Played by Candace Quarrels, young African Nabulungi, a.k.a. Neosporin, Neutrogena, and Necrophilia, (Elder Albert Cunningham can never seem to remember her name) is converted by Albert’s tall tales of Joseph Smith and Mormonism, woven together with the Star Ship Enterprise, Yoda and Lord of the Rings. “If you lay with that infant, you will burn in the fiery pits of Mordor!”
Though disappointed when she finds out it is all a farce, she and the tribe realize Salt Lake City and The Book of Mormon are just a metaphor for being kind to each other and finding the strength to overcome adversity in life. The young elders find themselves and the tribe members become prospective new missionaries and propagate not the traditional “Book of Mormon,” but the “Book of Albert.” To the audience’s amusement and his mild Chagrin, one young African sang out a final choir in the spirit of his new salvation, “I still have maggots in my scrotum!”
Despite lead actor swaps, the army of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints performers never lost their contagious energy and did solid justice to the overzealous, eternally chipper personas of ambitious young Mormons. Barring a couple mortified audience members few and far between, the cast and viewers alike were enthralled with the act. The actors not only played their parts well, but seemed to truly enjoy their roles in this satirical comedy. A few strained notes from Larsen weren’t nearly enough to sully an otherwise incredible performance.