November 1, 2023
Review: 'The Book of Mormon' Remains Hysterically Irreverent
Will Demers READ TIME: 2 MIN.
Since opening on Broadway in 2011, "The Book of Mormon" has become one of the most successful musicals in history, winning nine Tony awards and five Drama Desk awards, including Best Musical. Following a record-breaking one-week run in 2019 at the Providence Performing Arts Center in Providence, "Mormon" returns for a limited run with a non-equity production that's every bit as fun and entertaining as the previous production.
All Elder Price (Sam McLellan) wants is to be a missionary somewhere really cool... like Orlando, Florida! And getting paired up with Elder Cunningham (Sam Nackman), who lies constantly as a defense mechanism against his own insecurities, doesn't help things at all when they're sent to Uganda, Africa. Even as they arrive, their luggage is taken from them by soldiers of Warlord General Butt Fucking Naked (Dewight Braxton, Jr.) and welcomed by villagers living in disgusting conditions. As their defense mechanism, they chant a phrase that roughly translates into "Fuck You, God!"
As our protagonists witness a murder of one of the villagers, Price feels that they can do nothing in Africa and reveals to Cunningham that he'll request a transfer to Orlando. But Elder Cunningham sees this as a chance to achieve greatness for himself. Meeting Nabulungi (Keke Nesbitt), he tries to convert her by embellishing the Book of Mormon. She is hooked by his earnest attitude and convinces the other villagers to hear the scripted word, or rather, the altered word! The missionaries haven't converted any villagers in three months, so Cunningham makes up some whoppers to make the dogma far more entertaining for these locals.
The results are absolutely hysterical; this production is highlighted by some sparkling talent. Directed and choreographed by Jannifer Werner (based on the original Broadway production), and this ensemble nails the movement as well as the heightened over-the-top humor. Not only does Nackman embody the awkward Cunningham to a T, he's a great physical comic, as well. McLellan's Price is clearly in his element as the over confident young missionary, notably during the very funny number "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream," in which he confronts some childhood fears. And both Nesbit and Braxton, Jr. shine as Nabulungi and the Warlord General, respectively, with the former showing her vocal talents "Sal Tlay Ka Siti."
And yes, "Book of Mormon" is as irreverent as you've heard it is; don't bring the kids to this one, but grab a group of good friends or family and get your tickets before this surprisingly good production vanishes at the end of the week. It's a laugh out loud two and a half hours of visual gags, fun music and crazy humor. Don't miss this one!
"Book of Mormon" is running through November 5th at the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) 220 Weybosset Street, Providence, Rhode Island 02903. For information or tickets call 401-421-2787 or visit www.ppacri.org.