Thru May 29 at the Orpheum Theater
By Colleen Steppa, Theater Reviewer (Photos by Joan Marcus)
You don’t need to read this review to know you should see The Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is nonstop hilarious, operating simultaneously on every level from slapstick to cerebral. Fans of South Park will recognize a few voiceover moments with Cartman-style narration and jokes that echo back to the infamous Mormonism episode of the cartoon that is rumored to have been the springboard for the show’s inception.
Having heard a lot of vague praise of this show, I had incorrectly assumed that the performance would consist of a scene-by-scene parody portrayal of Mormonist teachings. Though it did include several fantasy sequences in the backdrop, the majority of the action followed two modern Mormon characters on their first mission. Elder Price – who fancies himself a sort of Mormon G.I. Joe hero, is joined up with goofy sidekick Elder Cunningham – who likes to proclaim “Tomorrow is a Latter day!” The two are assigned a rather undesirable mission location for their two-year assignment and subsequently reality slaps them in the face.
There are two mini-performances within the performance that I would love to see made into their own shows. First, the historical reenactments of scenes from the actual Book of Mormon, starring what I like to refer to as “Lite Brite Jesus” literally made me cry with laughter, and second, its counterpart with the native Ugandans’ performance of the wildly incorrect Mormonist teachings they’ve learned, complete with clever and disgustingly accurate depictions of dysentery. There are also surprise guest appearances, like the effeminate Hitler in “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” and Elder Cunningham’s inclusion of hobbits and Lieutenant Uhura into Mormon canon in “Making Things Up Again”.
The greatest strength of this show is that the audience isn’t allowed to be content in laughing at Mormons as outsiders because the characters continually remind us of our similarities with them. Through the Mormon experience, we actually end up laughing at white people in general. Scenes of awkward missionaries interacting with native people, attempting to solve their problems with religious doctrine, are hilarious and healthily uncomfortable. When a chorus of white men sing proudly “I am Africa” in front of Africans wearing American flag shorts and Chicago Bulls shirts, the audience audibly groaned in shame for the characters, amidst laughter and applause.
In terms of theatrics, The Book of Mormon holds up with fantastic sets, changing at lightning speed, superior musical numbers and dancing. Fans of classic musical theater will not be disappointed, as this show includes a peppy tap dance and makes several nods to 1960s film like the opening and closing numbers which are reminiscent of the telephone scene in Bye, Bye Birdie.
Punctuality is no joke
If you already got your tickets, my advice is to come earlier than you think is early, because the theater doors will be crowded and take extra time getting through. If you don’t get in before the opening song starts, the staff at the Orpheum will not seat you until it’s finished and you’ll have to watch it on a TV screen in the hallway. Staff are very helpful but they aren’t kidding around with start times so plan ahead.
The Book of Mormon, Thru May 29
Orpheum Theater, 910 Hennepin Avenue
Prices range from $49 to $134 per ticket: see ticketmaster.com
See related: All Theater News on MinnyApple.com
MinnyApple is a relatively new Minneapolis source for news and weather information. Find us on the Twitter and Facebook links below.