×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Book of Mormon

Given the key contributors that "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone teamed with for their first Broadway outing, one might expect "The Book of Mormon" to show the influences of "Spamalot" and "Avenue Q." As it happens, this raucously funny new show surpasses both of those Tony winners.

With:
Mormon Jason - Michael Snow
Moroni/Elder McKinley - Rory O'Malley
Elder Price - Andrew Rannells
Elder Cunningham - Josh Gad
Price's Dad/Joseph Smith/Jesus/Mission President - Lewis Cleale
Cunningham's Dad - Kevin Duda
Mrs. Brown - Rema Webb
Mafala Hatimbi - Michael Potts
Nabulungi - Nikki M. James
General - Brian Tyree Henry
Doctor - Michael James Scott

Given the key contributors that “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone teamed with for their first Broadway outing, one might expect “The Book of Mormon” to show the influences of “Spamalot” and “Avenue Q.” As it happens, this raucously funny new show surpasses both of those Tony winners, and handily so: Every song enhances the hilarity, expert staging heightens every gag, and the cast of fresh faces is blissfully good. Broadway hasn’t seen anything like it since Mel Brooks came to town with “The Producers,” only “Mormon” has better songs.

Tuner’s success rests on a formidable foursome of talents. Parker and Stone have demonstrated their subversive brand of humor since 1997 on the animated “South Park” and the 1999 movie musical “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut.” Robert Lopez (credited alongside the duo for music and lyrics), brings a dose of the musical-comedy knowhow he demonstrated as co-scribe on “Avenue Q,” while Casey Nicholaw (who co-directed the show with Parker and choreographed) has never met a musical accent that couldn’t be punched up by a broad gesture, as evidenced by his work as choreographer on “Spamalot” and choreographer-helmer of “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

The result is a show that never quits, particularly in its nonstop fusillade of obscenities; the authors lob more four-letter words than can be found in a Mamet three-act. Pattern is set early on with “Hasa Diga Eebowai,” a chirpy, feel-good tune patterned on “Hakuna Matata” from “The Lion King.” It’s only midway through the third refrain that the natives cheerfully slip in the blasphemous translation, resulting in the first of several showstoppers.

The story is simplicity itself: Two young missionaries sent by the church to find converts in a Ugandan village ravaged by disease and a local warlord. After various trials and tribulations, they are inevitably victorious. Along the way, there’s a pageant relating a fractured version of the Scriptures, complete with mystical frogs, streaming dysentery and comical rubber-hose appendages; Christ makes several appearances in a decidedly non-flattering manner; and there’s a “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” in the second act that includes Genghis Khan, Jeffrey Dahmer and Johnnie Cochran (with telltale glove).

The producing team, led by Anne Garefino (“South Park”) and Scott Rudin, have come up with a production as lustrous as the golden statue of the angel Moroni that rotates atop the proscenium. Show is boosted by canny contributions from set designer Scott Pask, costume designer Ann Roth and the music department of Stephen Oremus, Larry Hochman and Glen Kelly. Choreography is outstanding, especially when Nicholaw has his frenzied shirt-and-tie missionaries jerk around like ’60s go-go dancers.

Andrew Rannells, as the overachieving young Elder Price, is the brightest of a uniformly fine cast. Sporting a hypocritical smile as plastic as a Ken doll, Rannells dances as if possessed and positively shines, as though lit by his own personal halo. Josh Gad plays the other hero with a nervous cackle and the gentility of a young John Belushi, perhaps a little more broadly than necessary. The heart of the show is Nikki M. James as the Ugandan convert Nabulungi. Her performance of “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” — dreaming of that utopian city in faraway Ooh-tah — brings touching sincerity to this outlandish fairy tale.

Michael Potts is a friendly presence who makes the most of “Hasa Diga Eebowai,” and Rory O’Malley adds a wry note as a tap-dancing Mormon who has learned to “turn off” his forbidden urges. Ensemble of Ugandan villagers and Mormon boys is impressive, the latter sporting what must be the whitest teeth in Broadway history.

For all its sacrilegious jabs, the show is earnestly about the power of faith, cresting with a rousing anthem (“I Believe”). The Ugandan natives believe, and ultimately embrace religion, while the heroes realize that doctrine is all metaphor — “a bunch of made-up stuff, but it points to something bigger.” And that describes “The Book of Mormon,” an original made-up-for-Broadway production that approaches musical-comedy Rapture.

Popular on Variety

The Book of Mormon

Eugene O'Neill; 1,066 seats; $137 top

Production: An Anne Garefino, Scott Rudin, Roger Berlind, Scott M. Delman, Jean Doumanian, Roy Furman, Important Musicals, Stephanie P. McClelland, Kevin Morris, Jon B. Platt, Sonia Freidman, Stuart Thompson presentation of a musical in two acts with book, music and lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone. Directed by Casey Nicholaw and Parker; choreography by Nicholaw. Music direction and vocal arrangements, Stephen Oremus.

Creative: Sets, Scott Pask; costumes, Ann Roth; lighting, Brian MacDevitt; sound, Brian Ronan. Orchestrations, Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus; dance music, Glen Kelly. Production stage manager, Karen Moore. Opened March 24, 2011. Reviewed March 20. Running time: 2 HOURS, 25 MIN.

Cast: Mormon Jason - Michael Snow
Moroni/Elder McKinley - Rory O'Malley
Elder Price - Andrew Rannells
Elder Cunningham - Josh Gad
Price's Dad/Joseph Smith/Jesus/Mission President - Lewis Cleale
Cunningham's Dad - Kevin Duda
Mrs. Brown - Rema Webb
Mafala Hatimbi - Michael Potts
Nabulungi - Nikki M. James
General - Brian Tyree Henry
Doctor - Michael James ScottWith: Scott Barnhardt, Justin Bohon, Darlesia Cearcy, Asmeret Ghebremichael, Clark Johnsen, John Eric Parker, Benjamin Schrader, Brian Sears, Lawrence Stallings, Maia Nkenge Wilson, Tommar Wilson.

More Legit

  • Timothee Chalamet poses for photographers at

    Timothée Chalamet to Make London Stage Debut With Eileen Atkins in '4000 Miles'

    Timothee Chalemet is set to take to the London stage for the first time, appearing next spring in Amy Herzog’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated play “4000 Miles.” Matthew Warchus will direct the production at The Old Vic, which will also star Eileen Atkins (“The Crown,” “Gosford Park”). The play opens April 2020. It turns on the story [...]

  • Jonathan Groff

    Listen: Jonathan Groff Knows He's a Spitter

    If you’ve seen “Little Shop of Horrors” — the starry revival headlined by Jonathan Groff in a small Off Broadway theater — you probably noticed that Groff spits a lot when he speaks onstage. He’ll be the first to tell you that he’s been a spitter as long as he can remember, but “Little Shop” [...]

  • Key Largo

    L.A. Theater Review: Andy Garcia in 'Key Largo'

    Would “Casablanca” make a good play? Guess what: It was first produced on stage as “Everybody Comes to Rick’s.” How about “Key Largo,” the black-and-white Bogie-and-Bacall vehicle in which a handful of misfits find themselves trapped in a South Florida hotel while a hurricane rages outside? In fact, the 1948 John Huston film was adapted [...]

  • Sophia Anne Caruso and Alex Brightman'Beetlejuice'

    How 'Beetlejuice: The Musical' Became a Broadway Turnaround Story

    Christopher Kuczewski is what you’d call a Netherling. It’s a reference to the netherworld inhabitants who populate “Beetlejuice: The Musical,” the off-beat adaptation of the 1988 hit film that’s becoming an unlikely Broadway turnaround story. And that designation, which has been given to superfans of the show, goes a long way towards explaining how a [...]

  • Lena Waithe'The Inheritance' Broadway play opening,

    Lena Waithe, Anderson Cooper Attend Broadway Opening of 'The Inheritance'

    “The Inheritance” pulls viewers in many directions — toward pain and hope, trauma and healing. It’s what brought stars like Andy Cohen, Anderson Cooper, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick and Lena Waithe to Broadway on Sunday — a chance to heal, to remember and grieve. Also in attendance for the premiere at the Barrymore Theater [...]

  • Touching the Void review

    West End Review: 'Touching the Void'

    It shouldn’t work. Attempting to make effective theatre out of scaling a mountain, facing disaster thousands of feet up in the freezing cold and enduring a drawn-out facedown with death is surely a preposterous idea. Yet that is exactly what playwright David Grieg and director Tom Morris and his ideally meshed creative team have done. [...]

  • Hangmen review play

    Martin McDonagh’s 'Hangmen' Coming to Broadway in 2020

    Martin McDonagh’s “Hangmen” will debut on Broadway this spring, the latest in a line of West End transfers to the Great White Way this year. The play, which focuses on the second-best executioner in Britain dealing with his government’s decision to abolish his favorite form of doing away with prisoners, will begin performances on Feb. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content