I saw The Book of Mormon for the first time a couple years ago in Chicago and couldn’t wait to settle in at the Orpheum Wednesday night to see it again. I have to say, it was just as hilariously offensive the second time around.
Written by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone, the show follows Elder Price and Elder Cunningham’s mission to Uganda where a warlord reigns supreme, and the possibility of converting the village to Mormonism seems hopeless. In case you don’t recognize the names of the writers, they’re the same fellas who created South Park so let’s take the story and add some fun to this basic plot.
Like how Elder Price dreams of his mission taking place in a magical land called… Orlando. Ryan Bondy plays Elder Price flawlessly, with just the right mix of arrogance and naivete. In fact, all of the Mormons in the show have a Stepford wife feel to them because they’ve learned to “Turn It Off” and crush any non-happy emotions they may have. This unfortunately can lead to a “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” that I can’t even begin to describe and is one of those things you just have to see for yourself.
The warlord’s name is Butt-F***ing-Naked, and David Aron Damane gets to strut around onstage wearing a hideous pair of yellow cowboy boots. His character strives to circumcise all the women in the village, and this adds to the ridiculous nature of the show. You may find yourself offended by the portrayal of the villagers, but when you look at it objectively, the show makes fun of all parties involved.
Which brings me to the person who’s the star of the show for me: Cody Jamison Strand who plays Elder Cunningham. He’s the classic nerdy kid who doesn’t have friends, and his parents hope that sending him away for 2 years will help him grow up a little. He’s a pathological liar, so you never quite know what’s going to come out of his mouth. It’s also very clear that Strand is bursting with talent because of the way he balances his comedic prowess and amazing vocal abilities. There’s a fine line between letting your talent shine through and playing a supremely dorky character, and it’s difficult for me to imagine anyone playing this role any better.
The songs are catchy, Casey Nicholaw’s choreography entertains throughout (including an incredible tap number!), and the entire cast is amazing. Yes, it pokes fun at Mormons, but you could swap out a plethora of other religions and it would be just as funny. And the Mormons seem to be embracing it because they have some nice ad space in the program. As crazy as The Book of Mormon probably seems now (well, because it is), it’s still uplifting and hopeful, and if you’ve ever wanted to smile and laugh for about 3 hours straight, then this is the show for you.
The Book of Mormon at Orpheum Theatre
910 Hennepin Avenue