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Story by Andy Argyrakis
Actually, hysterically irreverent is probably a better way of putting it, especially considering the Broadway blockbuster that's also currently in residence at Chicago's Bank of America Theatre was helmed by "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, alongside Robert Lopez, co-creator of the equally farcical adult-focused puppet musical "Avenue Q." Though it's certainly uproarious from start to finish, "The Book of Mormon" isn't for the "Annie" crowd and could potentially offend devout faith followers, Utah residents and anyone with African heritage. (A "parental advisory" is even printed on the ticket given its explicitness, but again, this shouldn't be a shocker given the "South Park" connection).
So what does "The Book of Mormon" hold within its plot aside from instantly singable pop tunes and over the top religious satire that probably has Joseph Smith rolling over in his grave? Well, it turns out a troupe of well meaning but far from worldly teens from Salt Lake City are sent on a mission trip to a greatly caricatured version of Uganda, which doesn't just turn the young suburbanites' lives upside down, but also gives the village a much needed shake-up.
Though culture clash is evident as the boys' squeaky clean shirts and ties don't exactly match the tattered garments of the impoverished tribe, relationships slowly form in relatively unexpected ways. Though it would seem the super straight-laced Elder Kevin Price (Nic Rouleau, direct from Broadway) would have the easiest time saving souls, his screwball partner Elder Arnold Cunningham (Ben Platt) turns out to be the most successful, albeit with a significantly improvised message riddled with "Star Wars" and "The Lord of the Rings" references.
However the show isn't without its fair share of outside antagonism, from an evil general who decrees all the females be circumcised to a falling out between the boys and their visiting Mission President for misrepresenting Mormons with Elder Cunningham's outlandish metaphors. Of course, double-entendres are ample, especially as Arnold speaks of baptizing the beautiful Nabulungi (Stephanie Umoh) for "the first time" and their bodies lie in sexually suggestive positions against a silhouetted screen or numerous hints of sexual fantasies by the secretly gay (yet pink suitcase-bearing) Elder McKinley (Jackson Evans).
Even with so many cheeky subplots, "The Book of Mormon" still has plenty of heart, from mended fences between Elder Price and Elder Cunningham to a shared bond of faith (even if it's a little unconventional) with the villagers after their initial clashes and confusions get ironed out. Tack all those emotions on a two-and-a-half hour package, and it gives the uproarious show a sweet enough aftertaste to ensure its continued sell out status.
"The Book of Mormon" continues at Bank of America Theatre with ticket and additional information at www.bookofmormonthemusical.com and www.broadwayinchicago.com.
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