“The Book of Mormon” – ASU Gammage

Theater Review – May 22, 2017


Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

When “The Book of Mormon” opened on Broadway in 2011, it created a raucous uproar of extreme hilarity.  Irreverent but never mean or nasty, the musical found the humorous foibles and follies of the rigid Mormon Church and let audiences laugh at the religion’s unyielding rules.  The show won lots of awards and has been a huge hit as it entertains the world.

So when such a popular musical returns to the Valley, the hit show isn’t the thing that needs to be reviewed.  Is the latest touring duplication of the Broadway original just as sharply comic and zesty as when it opened?

The show is back at ASU Gammage and I assure you after seeing this delightfully funny and witty creation by the authors of “South Park” many times, it is just as good as it was two days after the Broadway opening when I first saw it.

To be sure, the current company is heavily influenced by the brilliant original cast and their spot-on performances but that’s as it should be as new audiences discover the show and repeat viewers expect it to be just as amusing as it always has been.

Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker’s zesty staging is as funny as I remember it on Broadway.  The quickly moving sets shift the action from Salt Lake City where two mismatched Mormon missionaries are assigned to Uganda to recruit Church converts.  The show jabs and stabs at Mormon dictates so audiences laugh affectionately but never because the show mocks or laughs at the religion.  That non-threatening humor is a talent used by show authors Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone that made the show so successful.

The only problem with the show is that to fully enjoy every morsel of its wit, you must comprehend every lyric but ASU Gammage’s problematic sound system combined with the show’s own sound doesn’t always allow it.  Other than missing some lyrics, the capacity opening night crowd started laughing immediately as the show’s fun ride through Mormon hypocrisy and the missionaries weird approach to the Uganda natives stimulates continuous hilarity.

The large cast is superlative especially the two leads Gabe Gibbs skinny but rule-following Elder Price and Conner Peirson’s hefty, blundering but ever faithful Elder Cunningham.  The pair is hysterical together, individually, and in their strained relations with the natives.

Like the last time “The Book of Mormon” played ASU Gammage, there aren’t many tickets left but seeing the show results in a hilarious experience.  The show plays through May 28.  To order tickets, call the ASU Gammage box office at 480-965-3434 or order tickets online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade: A