Reporting Sara Pelissero
From the get-go, fresh-faced, wide-eyed young men in crisp white shirts and perfectly tightened black ties promised to share the story of a book — a book that would change our lives.
Well, mission accomplished, boys.
“The Book of Mormon” is inappropriate, X-rated and uses language that your elderly aunt Betty would certainly get the soap bar out for but the payoff is huge. Every joke throws a punch, every moment keeps you smiling and just when you think they’ve gone far enough, they sprint past the line of social decency.
From the brilliant minds of Trey Parker, Matt Stone (“South Park”) and Robert Lopez (“Avenue Q”), this musical is supremely genius. It’s not only funny, it’s smart and though packed with vulgarity, it has a strange but genuine heart.
The story itself tells a tale of a hopeful, eager young elder on his way to begin his Mormon duties and spread the word of the book. When he finds himself paired with a seemingly unworthy companion and sent to the polar opposite of his dream location, both his faith and his sanity is tested.
As Elder Price, Mark Evans is perfect. His spot-on vocals are second only to his convincing portrayal of an exemplary Mormon mold that loses his way and is forced to throw tradition to the wayside to find what truly matters.
Christopher John O’Neill, who is a newcomer to the Broadway world, absolutely nails the character of Elder Cunningham. His comedic timing and insecure, naive demeanor matches perfectly alongside his far more confident companion. Think Zach Galifianakis with more Star Wars memorabilia.
The true brilliance of the storyline happens when these squeaky clean kids from Salt Lake City are thrown into the desperate, unholy pits of the African underworld — where AIDS is more common than clean water.
And yes, they sing about it — and not in a whiny ‘Rent’ way but in a seemingly impossible, yet hilariously, jubilant way that will forever tarnish the way you hear songs from “The Lion King.”
The stark contrast between this clean, white shirt world and their new insects-in-genitalia world gives infinite possibilities to both comedy and self-exploration.
Truly, the only negative that can be said about this show is that the jokes are almost too plentiful — while laughing at one as it’s landing, you’re sure to miss the next one that’s right on its heels.
Still, that’s hardly a complaint for a show that pushes the boundaries and goes, truly, where no musical has gone before. It’s no simple feat taking subjects as scary as religion, poverty and disease and turning them into punchlines and over-the-top songs, especially in a purposeful way. There’s a very small space between funny offensive and just offensive — yet somehow, “The Book of Mormon” snuggled right in and made this space their home.
In the same respect of a South Park episode, no one is spared from insult — and in the same way, it evens the playing field where if you haven’t been insulted, you feel left out.
Beyond the humor, the staging is exciting, the choreography is always entertaining and the scene changes — from a mud hut in Africa to the pits of hell — are flawless. The songs are catchy and will immediately be implanted but like many lines of the show, should not be uttered aloud in your cubicle.
And though the show puts everyone through the ringer, at the end of the day, there’s an incredible heart and the realization that there’s good in everyone, even if it takes an extra step of soul searching or a divergence off your righteous path to find it.
They came to our door, asking for just a moment of our time to tell us about a book — a book that would change our lives. Who knew that once we said yes, they’d actually deliver on their promise.
“The Book of Mormon” runs through Feb. 17. Tickets are extremely limited but a number can be won through the Hennepin Theatre Trust lottery. For more information about the show or the ticket lottery, click here.