The Book of Mormon at the Arsht Center
Playing now through December 3rd
For the easily offended, the word ‘blasphemous’ may very well apply to “The Book of Mormon.” For everyone else, it’s likely to be viewed as a welcome breath of fresh air – one that Miamians are very fortunate to have make its way to South Florida once again, this time at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Miami.
Written by “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, “The Book of Mormon” is very much the toe-tapping Broadway equivalent of the duo’s crass, long-running cartoon series. But instead of foul-mouthed Colorado grade-schoolers, Stone and Parker tackle a very different sort of crowd: Mormons.
Elder Price (Kevin Clay) is the poster child of everything a dedicated young Mormon should be. He’s a shameless overachiever, one who has a habit of singing about how he plans to do “something incredible.” And something incredible is coming his way indeed. When it comes time to be paired up with another young missionary with whom he’ll travel to an exotic new location to convert new members into the Church of Latter Day Saints, Elder Price is paired with his complete opposite: the loud, obnoxious Elder Cunningham (Connor Peirson). When the unlikely pair is assigned Uganda as their mission location for the next two years, their faith will be put to the ultimate test.
In many ways, “The Book of Mormon” rejuvenates the language and landscape of Broadway by simultaneously using common Broadway tropes as the butt of their jokes, but also as the show’s very foundation. Take, for instance, the first act number “Turn it Off,” in which Elder McKinley (a fabulous performance from PJ Adzima) sings about suppressing bad thoughts and homosexual urges. It’s a cheeky song that transforms into a glorious tap number, equipped with a whip fast costume change involving sparkly pink vests. Then of course there are the moments when the show gleefully pokes fun at “The Lion King,” such as when the local tribe members welcome the pair to their village by teaching them a new saying that’s not quite as family-friendly as “Hakuna Matata.”
Profanity and taboo topics color most of the show’s runtime, with frequent mentions of AIDS, baby rape, frog fornication, evil war lords, and genital mutilation. That may not seem like the makings for a hysterical night out, but in Stone and Parker’s hands, it’s politically incorrect gold.
And it’s that boldness – that complete lack of fear when it comes to pushing the envelope – that makes “The Book of Mormon” a treasure. Accomplishing a delicate balancing act between skewering and celebrating religion, “The Book of Mormon” turns out to be just as sweet as it is crude. When local villager Nabulungi (Kim Exum) sings her powerhouse solo “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” (pronounced “Salt Lake City”), it’s no surprise that it’s funny. But as she sings this hopeful ballad about finding a paradise that will turn her life around, you’ll find yourself shocked at how emotionally potent the number is at the same time. And it’s that irresistible combination, mixed with legitimate non-stop belly laughs, that makes “The Book of Mormon” a modern Broadway classic.
“The Book of Mormon” is playing at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts until December 3rd. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.
Lauren Cohen was born and raised in Miami Beach and graduated from the University of Miami with a bachelor’s degree in Motion Pictures. She has been writing about film since 2009, with her movie reviews and features appearing regularly in Examiner.com and Miami Beach News, among others. She’s interviewed some of the most recognizable faces in the film industry, including Daniel Craig, Emma Stone, Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Javier Bardem. An avid supporter of the arts, Lauren also works with the Miami Film Festival to promote the best of world cinema to the Miami community.