Review: Hello! The Book of Mormon is Back!

Sam McLellan in THE BOOK OF MORMON North American tour (Photo by Julieta Cervantes)

Book of Mormon
Paramount Theatre
Through January 14, 2024 get tickets and more info here.

The Book of Mormon is the smash hit written by the people who brought you “South Park” and the cult film, “Orgasmo”. The musical has been delighting audiences throughout the nation and the world! A hysterical mockery of the Mormon religion, this crowd-pleasing show makes its triumphant return to Seattle’s Paramount Theatre – it is not to be missed!

The story tells of a young, devoted Mormon man (Elder Price) getting ready to be sent out into the world for his mission of converting the non-believers. Despite his desperate wishes to be sent to his favorite place, Orlando, Florida, he is paired up with the most unlikely partner Elder Cunningham, an utter misfit that has a bad habit of mixing reality with his own fantasies. Together, they are sent to Uganda Africa to convert and teach the unbelievers about the angel Moroni, Joseph Smith, and the history of Mormonism. The team arrive in a small impoverished village torn apart by AIDS and an aggressive war lord. The two missionaries have their work cut out for them as they try to help the villagers, especially Nabulungi, the daughter of a local who is optimistic about her dire situations. The villagers teach the Mormon team their local saying, “Hasa Diga Eebowai”, to which Elder Cunningham asks: “Does it mean no worries for the rest of your days?” It is safe to say, it does NOT! The new duo is introduced to the missionaries already there, who have failed to convert a single person. They teach the new missionaries their way of dealing with confusion and disappointment; they take their feelings and “Turn it Off”. After many challenges, and with Elder Cunningham’s creative retelling of the history of the Latter-Day Saints, the missionaries are put to the test when their supervisors appear to check up on their conversion rate. Believing Elder Cunningham’s creative (and much more interesting) retelling of the Mormon history, the village unites in their conversion and spread out through Africa to teach the Mormon religion to further unbelievers.

The show’s cast are all wonderful to watch. From the African villagers trying to cope with their lives, to the Elder ‘extras’ who each show their own personalities. They all do their jobs well and deserve the applause earned as the curtain dropped. Keke Nesbitt plays Nabulungi, the optimistic girl from the village wanting to believe in something more than what she sees. The character’s eagerness comes through easily to win the hearts of the audience. When she sings of her dreams for a better life in the Mormon world in the fantasy land of “Sal Tlay Ka Siti”, her innocence and desires are as clear as her voice.

The two main leads of this show are Elder Price and Elder Cunningham played by Sam McLellan and Sam Nackman, respectively.  Mr. McLellan brings a great deal of enthusiasm to the stage as Elder Price, while daring to dream of Orlando, and trying to be the best darn Mormon he can. His charm radiates with a youthful zeal and his voice is strong. When he sings the anthem “I Believe”, it is easily heard in the back of the theatre.

Mr. Nackman steals the show as Elder Cunningham. His antics from his very entrance is funny, physical and done perfectly well. His voice squeaks wonderfully around both notes and lyrics to make his songs stand out. Acting the “straight man” to Mr. McLellan’s perfect Mormon attitude in “You and Me (but Mostly Me)” brings good humor to the odd coupling. His consistent confusion of Nabulungi’s name (he calls her various things including “Nintendo” and even “Necrophilia”) is absolutely hysterical and makes one wonder if the script is written that way (with those specific misnomers) or if he is gifted with delightful improvisational skills as well.

It is without fail, that the real stars of this show are its book, lyric and music geniuses; Robert Lopez, Trey Parker, and Matt Stone. These songs are catchy and quite misleading when the lyrics are added. The lyrics to the songs are foul, hysterically outrageous, and fantastically irreverent. Only the minds behind South Park (Parker and Stone) and Avenue Q (Lopez) could make a song parody of “Hakuna Matata” and turn it into absurd and humorous obscenities. I could listen to this cd weekly and still laugh at the saucy and contemptuous whimsy of it all.

For anyone not familiar with South Park or The Book of Mormon be warned; as stated several times, there is foul language, adult circumstances/discussions, and, for the devoutly religious, the musical is completely mocking The Book of Mormon itself. For the younger audiences, or those easily offended, you’ve been warned. (A side note; according to reports, every tour has been practically sold out in Salt Lake City).

The Book of Mormon opened on Broadway March 24, 2011 and it is still playing on the Great White Way. Originally nominated for 13 Tony Awards, the show won nine including Best Musical.

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Eric Andrews-Katz

Eric Andrews-Katz

Eric Andrews-Katz has short stories included in over 10 anthologies. He is the author of the Agent Buck 98 Series (“The Jesus Injection” and “Balls & Chain”), and the author of the Greek myth series beginning with the novel TARTARUS. He has conducted celebrity interviews with some of the biggest and best names on Broadway, Hollywood and in literature. He can be found at: http://www.EricAndrewsKatz.com

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