Ding-Dong! Hello. Did you hear that the outrageously funny Tony Award winning musical THE BOOK OF MORMON is preaching onstage right now at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa? Well, if you are still deciding, it’s only in town until April 3rd and only has limited number of seats left. Time is of the essence! The musical from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone that has been the talk across the industry since its inception just 5 years ago has gone on to stun and delight audience-goers everywhere. The Book of Mormon will have you laughing hysterically and leave you with a new take on what a musical can deliver.
If you haven’t heard anything more about this musical other than it’s wildly popular, it’s best be known that this is just as vulgar and politicly incorrect as one could expect from a South Park episode, containing explicit language that warrants cuts from the likes of Quintin Tarantino. You may want to check your prudish sensibilities before attending as Parker and Stone have created a no holds bar look at the Church of Latter Day Saints that will surely find someone to offend.
This unparalleled, insane musical comedy follows a pair of mismatched missionaries, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, that are sent halfway across the world to spread the Good Word. The Elders are forced into a mission location that’s going to be far more challenging than what they could have ever imagined. That’s all I’ll get into here as the unexpected helps lead to more laughter in this musical.
The Book of Mormon has a brand of humor that is very reminiscent of South Park storytelling. In no way is this a knock, as Parker and Stone actually have something I like to call intelligent shock-value comedy in which many of the jokes deliver a “I can’t believe they just said that” reaction quickly followed by a realization that the joke actually makes a lot of sense on a deeper level. The subtext of the musical and plot in its entirety is far more powerful than any one joke. This can often be seen in much of the creators past works where the end result usually tells a very valid moral to the story.
All this South Park talk has me worried some may be a little turned-off from wanting to see an onstage off-Broadway musical with South Park’s reputation. Let me be the first to admit that I was entirely wrong on on my perception of this musical. I had listened to the music several times over the past couple of years and thought to myself that it sounded very similar to the musical numbers featured in South Park episodes. Well, there is definitely a resemblance, at times, but the cast recordings do zero justice.
Not only does the incredible ensemble of cast members add something special to each song by their hilarious performances, but the songs were also written by Robert Lopez. Who? The same guy who composed songs for AVENUE Q and on the entirely opposite end of the sprectrum, The Disney animated film Frozen. This is where you insert that emoji with the smiley face with his hands on the side of the face with a shocked expression.
Seriously, The Book of Mormon features some excellent talent and a fitting fast-paced lively song collection. Elder Price played by Billy Harlingen Tighe was a delight and vocally perfect for the role. The character of Elder Cunningham, a socially awkward outcast will always have the challenging task to live up to Josh Gad, Olaf in Frozen, but AJ Holmes has managed to make this character entirely his own. I was concerned at first by his take, but his performance was solid throughout and delivered a vocal performance far better than his persona would gave off.
This production has a phenomenal group of talent with every single cast member delivering an amazing performance that were all worthy of a mention. Their enthusiasm throughout the entire production along with Lopez’s snappy and energetic songs have created a well-paced non-stop entertaining epic show.
Production value also continued to add to the show with great sets and scenic design, lighting was noteworthy, and sound was well mixed. The Book of Mormon contained it all that left everyone around me with such praise for the show. I seriously saw a lady jump up and down in her skirt and high-heals asking her man if they could see it again! Actively listening for others comments while walking out left me only hearing rave reviews.
I seriously went into The Book of Mormon expecting just some funny/shocking one-liners. What I got instead was a well-rounded, smart show with simply perfect performances, a great cast, a large production, great vocals, and sore cheek from so much laughter. Why did I not see this sooner?