Booking Laughter

Photo by Julieta Cervante
Okee dokee folks… I JUST came home from Providence Performing Arts Center where Book of Mormon opened in the capital city. I am not exaggerating when I say that my sides hurt from laughing almost non-stop for two hours. OMG!!! Book Of Mormon is the most outrageously funny production of just about anything I have ever seen. This show not only pushes the envelope for Broadway musicals, it sends it straight out for a full frontal assault of your funny bone with beguiling self-awareness. 

I honestly don't even know where to begin with this. It is a comedy masterpiece but it's so much more. The songs, the story, the music, the talent of the performers, and production are all wonderful. It's a perfect amalgamation of a straightforward musical and complete insanity. Nothing is sacred or off limits.

If you don't know about this show -- I mean REALLY know about this show -- you first must understand that it came from the creators of the animated series "South Park." Back in 2003 they aired an episode called “All About Mormons.” I watched this one and it was brilliantly funny. Not only that, most of it was presented as a pseudo musical. Evidently "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone grew up around a lot of Mormons in Colorado. They had a fascination with Mormon leader Joseph Smith and wanted to do a bit about him. They connected with Robert Lopez (Avenue Q) who also had a similar interest. After years of writing and workshopping, the finished production of The Book of Mormon has amassed nine Tony Awards and ¾ of a billion dollars.     

This show lampoons not only Mormonism but religion in general. That is a tough one for people to let loose on, but if you can't laugh at something then there is a problem with it. We are not living in the middle ages where heretics were burned at the stake. We are living in an enlightened society (and will hopefully continue to be) where religion can be questioned, mocked, dismembered, put in a blender on puree and poured out comically on stage. If you can withstand hearing the phrase “I've got maggots in my scrotum,” you can handle this. By the way, you will hear that phrase quite a few times.

The show opens with a religious tableau that morphs into the history of the Mormon faith. The first number, which most have experienced, is “Hello” -- the ringing of doorbells trying to spread the word. The basis of the show revolves around two newly anointed and mismatched Mormon missionary partners, Elder Cunningham and Elder Price, who are sent to Uganda to spread the word of the Book of Mormon and rally converts. It really wasn't exactly what they prayed for. The boys get a Lion King like send off and they land in a village that is poor and victimized where the current Mormon missionaries have had no luck gaining followers but they are still determined to succeed. The number "Hasa Diga Eebowai" will have you questioning your laughter when you find out what it means! "Man Up" is the close of Act I where Elder Cunningham decides he has to man-up like Jesus. 

Act II comes right out of the gate with another tableau bit and then two phenomenal back-to-back routines: "Making Things Up Again" and "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream." A cast full of crazy character cameos that include Joseph Smith, Lt. Uhura from "Star Trek," Yoda, Hobbits, Lucifer, Hitler, Genghis Khan, Jeffrey Dahmer, Johnnie Cochran, skeletons, and devils all join in to make these two of the more over-the-top numbers. Finally, if you can survive the comedy of the obscenely funny bits, the ending wraps it all up nicely and shows you the simple basis of the birth of a religion.

Laughter is good for the body, soul and mind. This much laughter is an extra healthy experience. You need to have a good sense of humor for this one, or develop it on the fly. It will be worth it. Check your pearls at the door, there will be no clutching them at this one. Let yourself have fun and loosen up that sphincter. It's all played out in good fun. And in the end you may be more the wiser about life. I cannot recommend this show enough.

The Book Of Mormon is at Providence Performing Arts Center now through Sunday, November 5. For more, follow Kevin to Heaven and get to:

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