by Beki Pineda
THE BOOK OF MORMON – Book, Music and Lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone; Directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker. Presented by Denver Center for the Performing Arts Broadway (Ellie Caulkins Opera House, 15th and Curtis, Denver) through July 7. Tickets available at 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org.
Just a short personal story involving Trey and Matt. Back in 1994, I attended the Sundance Film Festival in January. I arrived in the cold weather without any gloves, so the first morning I was there, I went to the grocery story to see if I could find some gloves. There was two young guys set up outside the door of the grocery story, handing out free tickets to a screening to people coming out and asking them questions about their movie. As I came out, they asked me if I would like to attend a free screening of ALFERD PACKER THE MUSICAL (later renamed CANNIBAL THE MUSICAL). Having seen it the previous summer in Boulder, I exclaimed, “Oh, that’s one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. I loved it!!” They were so excited to find someone who had actually seen their movie, they made me come out the door about three more times and respond in exactly the same way so they could get it on film. So somewhere in the Parker-Stone archives, there’s a shot of Beki talking about CANNIBAL and Matt saying softly as I walk off camera, “Thanks, Mom.”
Twenty years later, their musical dream, seven years in development, came true with the opening of THE BOOK OF MORMON on Broadway in 2011. Resoundingly positive reviews in spite of the profane subject matter followed and the first national tour opened in Denver in 2012. Isn’t it divine intervention that the creator of AVENUE Q (Robert Lopez) who taught puppets how to swear and make out on stage should pair with Trey Parker and Matt Stone who wrote the book on adult cartooning should join together to create a Broadway musical that would contain the most F-bombs heard on stage? It is still running on Broadway, in the West End and in Australia in addition to performances in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and another national tour which just landed again in Denver. Not too bad for a couple of kids from CU.
Even at a third viewing, BoM still made me laugh out loud. The arrogance and self-confidence of Elder Price (Kevin Clay) and the sad pathos of Elder Cunningham (Conner Peirson) when you know which one of them is going to “Man Up” and succeed just makes it funnier. The dismissal of negative thoughts in “Turn It Off,” the cheerful optimism of “All America Prophet,” and the contrasting dire straits of their Ugandan whose chant “Hasa Diga Eebowai” lets everyone know just what they think of religion – are all just as meaningful after multiple viewings. This cast features strong voices and sterling dancing skills; they tell the story with great enthusiasm and joy.
If you can get past the language, the score is actually a sweet love story, a coming-of-age tale, and an inspirational book set to music. Everyone wins in the end. Religion is found; arrogance is given its just desserts; and the good guy “baptizes” the girl. The Mormons have even more or less adopted the show as bringing more attention to the Church of the Latter Day Saints, portrayed Salt Lake City as “paradise,” and called attention to their own version of a “sliiiiiightly different” of the Book of Mormon. It seems you can tackle any problem as long as you keep your sense of humor.
A WOW factor of 9!!!