I can honestly say it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever experienced. From the comedic minds of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone comes The Book of Mormon, the tale of a pair of good Mormon boys from Salt Lake City, Utah, traveling to a village in Uganda for their two year mission. The musical draws from the same style of comedy in South Park, a clear testament to the writers’ unique manner. Despite the generally offensive style of the Broadway show, I laughed until I cried.
Perhaps the show relies too much on the audience’s knowledge of the LDS church, but for a girl from Salt Lake City, it wasn’t hard to follow at all. Even from the very opening lines- “Hello, my name is Elder Price and I am here to share with you the most amazing book!”- the show had me giggling. As the plot grew more and more ridiculous, it also got funnier and funnier. One scene depicts Elder Price dreaming of going to hell, in which two enormous coffee cups dance around him and force him to drink Starbucks. Maybe without the knowledge that Mormons aren’t allowed to drink coffee, the joke would not have made sense, but the ridiculousness of the situation would still be apparent. The humor is clever, sharp, and very dirty.
The scene-stealer of the show was definitely the African warlord, General Butt-F***ing-Naked. He rules over the village and threatens to bring harm to the young girls within the community and every time he was onstage I found myself laughing. At one point, the ambitious Elder Price reaches out to him, trying to convince him to convert to Mormonism during the musical number “I Believe,” and the ensuing tense reaction from the character was unforgettable. The scene I found the funniest is that in which the villagers put on a play depicting the life of Joseph Smith for the Mormon church leaders sent to review the mission. The musical act was so offensive I felt I had to omit it from my overview of the play to a Mormon friend.
The three lead characters were also well-played. Elder Price and Elder Cunningham’s relationship onstage is a funny but relatable one. Just like when people speak of The Office, everyone can say they know a Dwight Schrute, everyone who watches the play knows an Arnold Cunningham (Cale Krise). The comedy acting on the part of Nic Rouleau, Elder Kevin Price, was brilliant. Despite his never breaking character, there is something in his mannerisms that points out ‘isn’t this funny and ridiculous?’ to everyone in the crowd, and the audience is forced to laugh and agree with him because the whole play is funny and ridiculous. I couldn’t tell whether he or his character was more charming. The village leader’s daughter Nabalungi (Nikki James) is understandable because of her naivete and innocence. She sings a ballad about her vision of Salt Lake City (Sal Tlay Ka Siti), where, as one writer explains, the comedy lies in the “chasm between her perception of Salt Lake City and what we all know to be true of the real place.”
As Jon Stewart put it when he spoke of the play on The Daily Show, the show is “so good it makes me angry. If aliens come thousands of years from now and this is the record of our time on Earth, I will be absolutely satisfied with that.” I think that statement about sums it up. To anybody who encounters Mormon people on a daily basis or really anybody who likes to laugh, the show is a godsend.