The Book of Mormon cast captivated the audience Sunday night throughout a two-and-a-half hour performance, delivering every witty line with spontaneity during their last show here in Milwaukee, with laughter erupting after each one. During their five day stay from October 25, 2016 through October 30, 2016 (the fifth stop of the show’s second national world tour which began in March) the nine-time Tony Award winning musical lit up the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts again.
The musical, written by South Park creatives Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone, sold out every show during its previous and first visit to Milwaukee. Before that, it was the source of abundant controversy due to sentiments that it mocks the Mormon religion.
After Sunday’s show it was clear to me that the controversy is a thing of the past. The Book of Mormon isn’t only mocking the “hip Third Testament,” as the missionaries refer to it, the satire is spoofing all religions.
The show opens with young men ringing doorbells, equipped with their Book of Mormon, and dressed conservatively in black slacks, white-buttoned down shirts and ties. They’re missionaries from Salt Lake City, Utah, the Mormon Capital of the world. Elder Price, a missionary awaiting his assignment from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, desperately wants to be sent to Orlando, Florida – after all, it is known as the happiest place on earth.
Price, played by Gabe Gibbs, couldn’t have worse luck when he is assigned to Uganda, Africa accompanied by his annoying new partner Elder Cunningham, played by Cody Jamison Strand. Cunningham is short, chubby and unpopular, but optimistic. Hevpersistently tries to reassure Price by repeating “tomorrow’s a latter day,” but his intentions to comfort him with this idea that things could get better, or worse, are not well-received.
Some scenes obliquely compare the work of the missionaries to a sales pitch, like a company selling knives door to door. In songs like “I Believe,” elder Price belts out “I am a Mormon and, dang it, a Mormon just believes,” emphasizing questions that have publicly surrounded religion for decades. “Turn it Off” is a catchy melody that suggests discipline, advising the young boys to simply turn off any wrong feelings they may have “like a light switch.”
The play follows the duo’s journey on their almost impossible mission as they get to know the African locals. An impressionable young African girl Nabulungi, played by the talented Candace Quarrels, and the other African people are also loaded with comical one liners and obscenities.
The unnaturally high pitched male voices and energy billowed through the theater from beginning to end. Each time singing commenced, laughter followed. The music was unquestionably cohesive to the story line. The book of Mormon left Milwaukee on a high-note for the second year in a row and I’m sure it will be back.