Nothing is sacred, much is profane in ‘Book of Mormon’ 

click to enlarge On a mission: From left, Phyre Hawkins, Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner demonstrate the collision of cultures in “The Book of  Mormon” at the Curran Theatre. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • On a mission: From left, Phyre Hawkins, Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner demonstrate the collision of cultures in “The Book of Mormon” at the Curran Theatre.

Hilarious, relevant, blasphemous, filled with hummable tunes and still somehow sweet. That’s “The Book of Mormon.” Could anyone ask anything more of a musical about proselytizing, poverty and plague in which the sanctity of the clitoris is celebrated in song?

The national tour of 2011’s red-hot Broadway smash, winner of nine Tony Awards, opened Wednesday at the Curran Theatre to a refreshingly young (and old) audience. The crowd lapped up the brilliant book and score by Matt Stone and Trey Parker of TV’s “South Park” and Robert Lopez, co-creator of the musical “Avenue Q,” the spot-on sendup of “Sesame Street.”

Here, their lyrics are even naughtier, such as in the rousing “Lion King”-“Hakuna Matata” spoof with words not fit to print in a family newspaper. Google “Hasa Diga Eebowai” for a handy translation.

The delightfully straightforward plot describes the journey of hunky Elder Price (Ryan Reynolds lookalike Gavin Creel) and nerdy Elder Cunningham (Jared Gertner), young Mormons whose mission takes them not to France (“land of turtlenecks”) or Norway (“land of gnomes”), but to Uganda. There, they find AIDS, a warlord terrorizing young women and threatening to circumcise them, and fellow missionaries who have yet to baptize one single lost soul.

The giddy ensemble features power-packed “American Idol”-style vocals by Creel and Gertner; Kevin Mambo as Mafala Hatimbi, the village leader; and Samantha Marie Ware as Nabulungi, his daughter who yearns for a better life in “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” and dazzles with Gertner in the tender, sly, double-entendre duet “Baptize Me.”

Clearly musical theater fans, the show’s creators — including choreographer-director Casey Nicholaw and music director Stephen Oremus — pay homage to the form in every perfect number. Closeted Elder McKinley (Grey Henson) advises repression and sets off a tap-dancing storm in “Turn It Off”; the bouncy penultimate “Tomorrow Is a Latter Day” adorably resembles “Hairspray”; and “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream,” complete with Adolf Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, Johnnie Cochran and Starbucks coffee, recalls the nightmare sequence in “Fiddler on the Roof.”

An equal opportunity offender, “The Book of Mormon” is great on all levels, with insults and pop references for all, and even some fine points about the danger of religion when it loses sight of humanity.

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Leslie Katz

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