THE BOOK OF MORMON
Reviewed by Stephen Radosh

 
 
THE BOOK OF MORMON opened on Broadway in 2011 to rave reviews and nine Tony awards and has been packing them in ever since.  Already having had an extended sold-out run in Los Angeles, it has descended from Musical Theatre Heaven once again landing at the Pantages from now until July 9, 2017.
With a book & score written by those naughty boys Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of SOUTH PARK, and Robert Lopez, Tony winner for the equally outrageous AVENUE Q and Oscar winner for LET IT GO from FROZEN,  THE BOOK OF MORMON delivers exactly the kind of irreverence you expect from its creative team…..and then some!  Decidedly outrageous and anything but politically correct, it is also one of the funniest musicals I have ever seen.
The story follows Elder Price (Gabe Gibbs), the golden child of the current group of soon to be missionaries who wants nothing more than to be assigned to spread the word in his favorite place on earth….Orlando.   He is non-too-thrilled to be teamed with Elder Cunningham (Conner Peirson), a perpetual screw-up, compulsive liar, and pariah of his fellow classmates.  He is even less thrilled to learn that they are being assigned not to Orlando but to Uganda, where missionaries have previously failed to produce so much as a single convert. They soon find out that it’s a country filled with fighting factions, sociopathic Generals and a seemingly atheistic bent. But none of this bothers the clueless Elder Cunningham who is basking in the glow of his new best friend, or more accurately, only friend.
While Elder Price becomes more and more sullen and withdrawn and sure he was given a raw deal, Elder Cunningham is blossoming!  Finding that a few exaggerations and changes to the history of the church begins to intrigue the , especially the beautiful Nabulungi (Leanne Robinson), on who Elder Cunningham has developed a schoolboy crush, his path becomes clear.  As she brings in others to hear the ‘word,’ in order to keep them there, Elder Cunningham’s stories get crazier and crazier while moving further and further away from the actual Mormon doctrine. The Mission President (Ron Bohmer) arrives to try and learn the secret behind these novice missionaries’ extraordinary ability to baptize so many in such a short time.  He soon finds out as the new flock performs a ‘Ugandaized’ dramatization of the religion’s origins.  It bears about as much connection to the original as “The Small Cabin of Uncle Thomas” from The King and I does to its source.  Totally outraged, the Mission President kicks them all out of the church.  Once more Cunningham saves the day as he announces they will start their own kinder and more loving religion for after all “Tomorrow is a Latter Day.”
This is the third time I have seen THE BOOK OF MORMON and in a testimony to the musical’s strength, I loved it as much as I did the first time.  The cast of this production deserves as many kudos as are lauded on the show itself. 
Gabe Gibbs brings honesty and youth to the role of Elder Price.  Despite the character’s extreme vanity and humongous ego, Gibbs manages to also show the exuberance of youth along with its seemingly boundless optimism, keeping the character at once self-centered yet likeable.
Conner Pierson, in the role of Elder Cunningham, has added a believable layer of manicness to the awkward teenager who has more than a slight propensity towards exaggeration and downright lying.  But since he always (well almost always) does it with only the best intentions, he is the personification of the question, “Does the end justify the means?”
Leanne Robinson brings a true sense of beauty and grace to the role of Nabulungi, whom Elder Cunningham calls a different name, including Nikki Minaj and Neutrogena, every time they meet.  She also has a great sense of comedic timing and a voice that truly thrills with every note.
Another standout was PJ Adzima as Elder McKinley who stops the show as he sings and taps his way through one of the show’s funniest songs, “Turn It Off,” describing his gay tendencies and how he ‘conquers’ them.
So, if you have never seen this brilliant musical, or even if you have, I highly recommend getting thee to The Pantages Thetare in Hollywood before this divine production packs up and leaves to spread the word throughout the land.