On Stage: The Book of Mormon

Phyre Hawkins, Mark Evan and Christopher John O’Neill
in a scene from THE BOOK OF MORMON First National Tour
(c) Joan Marcus, 2013

The most ballyhooed Broadway musical in recent years has arrived in St. Louis. “The Book of Mormon,” winner of nine 2011 Tony Awards, has launched a 13-day run at the Fox Theatre.

Does it live up to the hype? Pretty much. It’s a high-energy show that’s earnest, offensive, hilarious and raunchy. Pretty much what you’d expect from “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and “Avenue Q” co-creator Robert Lopez.

Mark Evan and Christopher John O’Neill star as Elder Kevin Price and Elder Arnold Cunningham, two young missionaries who have been paired up to bring the word of God — via Joseph Smith — to a small village in Uganda.

Price is self-centered, charismatic and determined to be a leader in the church and do great things. He’s not at all happy about being shipped off to Africa (he was hoping to be assigned to Orlando) and not too crazy about his partner.

Cunningham is overweight, lacks self-esteem and has a habit of exaggerating the truth. He’s ecstatic to be teamed with Price, who he sees as his new best friend.

The duo arrive in Uganda and are immediately robbed by thugs working for the local warlord — whose name I cannot print on a family blog. Converting the locals will not be easy as they are dealing with their own issues — AIDS, poverty, female genital mutilation — and aren’t really interested in being baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“The Book of Mormon” is a fun, engaging show featuring a talented cast that knows how to sing and dance. The songs are upbeat and the lyrics clever. There’s no romance to slow things down and no love ballad to tie up the proceedings with multiple reprises. The set designs are nothing special except for the large temple-like structure that frames the stage.

While the show is highly entertaining, it’s clearly not for everyone. I was expecting that Parker and Stone would tone down the “South Park” adults-only humor for a Broadway production. Boy, was I wrong. I suspect “The Book of Mormon” sets a record for the number of times the F-word is used in a Tony Award-winning musical.

This is very much a mature audiences show. The woman sitting in front of me was clearly offended by what was unfolding on stage and I suspect she wasn’t alone. So you have been warned.

‘The Book of Mormon’ runs through March 3 at the Fox Theatre. http://www.fabulousfox.com/



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