REVIEW: ‘South Park’ makers open ‘The Book of Mormon’ | Movies | -- Your State. Your News.

Jun 03rd
  • Login
  • Create an account
  • Search
  • Local Business Deals

REVIEW: ‘South Park’ makers open ‘The Book of Mormon’

south784r032411_optWicked new Broadway musical gleefully sends Mormon youths to Uganda on a truly funny mission


“South Park” makers Trey Parker and Matt Stone deliver “The Book of Mormon,” a new Broadway musical that’s outrageously funny — and outrageously truthful — in its wickedly satirical observations.

Yes, it’s frequently vulgar, and yes, it roasts all sorts of sacred cows, but the show that opened Thursday at the Eugene O’Neill Theater undeniably is an original musical comedy that is both musical and comical.

In a season of tuners mostly derived from old movies, stories and songs, it’s a gold-plated Broadway miracle to encounter something so new and audaciously fresh in every respect of the word. Honestly, I haven’t heard an audience scream with such delight since “The Producers” landed in Times Square a decade ago.

The story regards two young Mormons about to serve their obligatory two years abroad as missionaries. Elder Price (Andrew Rannells) is handsome and dynamic. Elder Cunningham (Josh Gad) is a pudgy, needy loser who knows far more “Star Trek” lore than Mormon doctrine.

Much as Price yearns to be assigned to Orlando, the incongruous pair is dispatched to war-torn Uganda, where an impoverished, AIDS-afflicted population isn’t at all receptive to the inspirational message the Mormons try to spread.

south162r032411_optWhile the zealous Price runs afoul of an African warlord, among other horrors, Cunningham proves to be amazingly successful with the locals when he starts mixing up sci-fi mythologies with Mormon dogma.

Climaxing in a hilarious sequence when the newly-converted Ugandans stage a mad pageant celebrating the story of Joseph Smith – riddled with Cunningham’s fanciful interpolations – the musical turns out to be more than a mere spoof of organized religion. As in many a “South Park” episode, the show offers a good moral – in this case, the empowering nature of believing in something, no matter how ridiculous.

The f-bomb is dropped so often that it soon becomes harmless, but comical references to AIDS, genital mutilation, infant rape and similar dicey realities are likely to appall prudish viewers. Yet there is brutal truth to such dark humor, as well as impressive craft in the able ways Parker and Stone construct their show along classical Broadway musical comedy lines with composer Robert Lopez of “Avenue Q” repute.

A cheerful “Hello” opening chorus of doorbell-ringing missionaries, an infernally funny “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” episode and an ultimately blasphemous parody of “Hakuna Matata” (from “The Lion King,” which gets considerable ribbing) are among highlights of the brightly-hued score, which also features several sweet melodies. Although the orchestrations and vocal arrangements are top notch, the music occasionally is drowned out in cascading laughter created by the lyrics, staging and performances.

Nimbly staged with speed and visual wit by Parker and choreographer Casey Nicholaw, the production is expertly enhanced by the agility of Scott Pask’s settings and the droll detail of Ann Roth’s costumes. Elegantly framed by an ecclesiastical proscenium topped by a statue of the angel Moroni, religious dioramas come to life, raggedy African locales arise and even a fiery orange Hell pops open.

Congenial leading players and a frisky ensemble do well by the provocative material. Total Salt Lake City perfection in appearance, Rannells contrasts sharply against the goony-faced Gad, whose blubber boy of a hero becomes weirdly endearing. An ever-lovely Nikki M. James and a cheerful Michael Potts lead the Africans while a rabbit-y Rory O’Malley and an earnest Lewis Cleale represent nicely for the Mormon contingent.

The wonderful zest that everybody packs into their performances suggests that they love doing this brilliant show, and who can blame them? Let’s pray that the Messrs. Parker and Stone are dreaming up yet another original musical to brighten up dear old Broadway.

“The Book of Mormon” continues an open-end run at the Eugene O’Neill Theater, 230 W. 49th St. Call (212) 239-6200 or visit


REVIEW: John Leguizamo stars as ‘Ghetto Klown’

REVIEW ‘Hello Again’ sings and sins again intimately

REVIEW: ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ musical dishes out relentless entertainment

REVIEW: ‘Where’s Charley?’ dances upon a Frank Loesser score

REVIEW: ‘Arcadia’ speaks indistinctly about past lives and loves

REVIEW: ‘Cactus Flower’ fails to bloom

REVIEW: ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ glows with magic

REVIEW: ‘That Championship Season’ looks back upon former glory days

REVIEW: Frances McDormand counts among ‘Good People’

REVIEW: Richard Thomas stars in ‘Timon of Athens’

REVIEW: ‘Hallway Trilogy’ leads to disappointing places

REVIEW: Geoffrey Rush delivers a Russian fruitcake

REVIEW: ‘A Perfect Future' yields sour grapes

REVIEW: ‘Compulsion' fictionalizes Meyer Levin's life

REVIEW: ‘Thinner Than Water' sparkles with the bloody truth

REVIEW: ‘When I Come to Die' raises unanswered questions

REVIEW: ‘Lost in the Stars' shines darkly

REVIEW: ‘Three Sisters' evolve over the years

REVIEW: ‘The Witch of Edmonton' burns with feeling





Comments (1)
1 Sunday, 06 November 2011 21:42
Chris Ryder
There's talk of making a movie version of The Book of Mormon as well, but Parker and Stone are saying it's in the future "somewhere". I had some Book of Mormon tickets this summer and really enjoyed it from It would be great if a traveling production could come to the SF Bay area... one day.
I was able to see a few other Broadway Shows while I was there. I didn't have much interest in "Spiderman", but loved "Avenue Q". I love pointed social commentary, and got it in spades. Unfortunately, the movie will have to wait, apparently.

Add your comment

Your name:

Follow/join us

Twitter: njnewsroom Linked In Group: 2483509