The first two trips through town may have been a knockout, but the third time’s still a charm for the nine time Tony Award winner “The Book Of Mormon.” No, it’s not for the easily offended or those fiercely devoted to the religion started when Joseph Smith found golden plates from God, but for anyone who’s ever even remotely appreciated “South Park” or “Avenue Q” (the book, music and lyrics come from the former’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone, plus the latter’s Robert Lopez), it’s one of most hysterically irreverent musicals to ever hit the stage.
Along the way, the songs are just as much a hoot as the shenanigans, from “Turn It Off” (the boys’ light-switch ode to erasing any lustful or unpleasant thoughts), to “Baptize Me” (a totally over the top double entendre) and “Tomorrow Is A Latter Day” (a riff on the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints).
This time through Chicago, “The Book Of Mormon” visits the Private Bank Theatre (until August 14) with a dynamite cast carried by Elder Kevin Price (Ryan Bondy) and Elder Arnold Cunningham (Cody Jamison Strand), two Mormon missionaries attempting to convert Nabulungi (Candace Quarrels) and the people of Uganda to their religion. Of course, these squeaky clean boys from suburban Salt Lake City, Utah have no knowledge of the culture (outside of what they’ve presumed to be true from “The Lion King”), so getting their luggage stolen, facing AIDS head on and having to deal with imminent danger at all times is a lot more than they expected (especially for Elder Price, who prayed he’d land in Orlando).
While the zealous Price is a model Mormon (at least on paper), he’s paired with the pesky misfit Elder Cunningham (who admits never actually reading “The Book Of Mormon”) and the two couldn’t be more polar opposites. However, the more Price complains about his roommate and the overall conditions, the more Cunningham builds a genuine relationship with the Ugandans by sharing his imaginative mixture of Mormonism, “Star Wars” facts and completely made up remedies for curing the ailments affecting the poverty-stricken region.
Naturally, the show amplifies all the stereotypes of everyone involved and definitely crosses the politically correct line within seconds, but that doesn’t mean “The Book Of Mormon” doesn’t provide several redemptive takeaways. For instance, Price and Cunningham’s rocky relationship takes several unexpected turns prior to mending, and even if Cunningham’s sci-fi inspired lessons aren’t exactly accurate, their hilarious metaphors provide hope to people who previously had none.
Along the way, the songs are just as much a hoot as the shenanigans, from “Turn It Off” (the boys’ light-switch ode to erasing any lustful or unpleasant thoughts), to “Baptize Me” (a totally over the top double entendre) and “Tomorrow Is A Latter Day” (a riff on the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints). None of this is really meant for anyone younger than the subjects of the show, but as far as adult-themed satire goes, “The Book Of Mormon” presses so many buttons it’s an absolute riot from the first door bell ringing solicitor through its final act of reinvented salvation.