“The best musical of the century. Heaven on Broadway!” said Ben Brantley of the New York Times. The Book of Mormon has won nine Tony Awards and since its launch in 2011 has played to enthusiastic audiences across the nation and around the world. Now it has returned again to the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood.
The show opens at the Mormon Missionary training facility where the graduates are being paired and sent out for their two years of missionary work. Anyone who has ever met a pair of Mormon Missionaries — and I suspect even the Missionaries themselves — will find this portrayal simply hilarious.
Two very disparate young men, Kevin Price, a rather arrogant self-important young man and Arnold Cunningham, a self-loathing, severely insecure compulsive liar, are paired up and sent to Northern Uganda. Soon upon arrival they are robbed by the local warlord and greeted by some very cynical villagers who welcome the pair by chanting “Hasa Diga Eebowai.” The two Missionaries are stunned when they learn what that phrase means in English but it clearly establishes the near impossibility of their mission. Nevertheless Kevin Price has convinced himself that he himself will succeed in his mission.
But when Price is confronted by the Mission President’s request for a progress report he decides to abandon the mission and seeks relocation to Orlando, Florida. Price simply dumps his partner Arnold Cunningham but Arnold bounces back, manning up. His inspiration is in large part due to the interest of a lovely young Ugandan woman, Nabulungi.
How this all plays out you will have to see for yourself for I shall not spoil it for you. There is an abundance of rib tickling humor all along the way from Salt Lake City to Northern Uganda. And there is some very powerful transformation in the perceptions of Kevin Price.
One of the standout performances comes from Leanne Robinson as Nabulungi. Leanne is a newcomer to the professional stage and I am sure destined for great success. Her vocal skills are Tony level.
All good, with an abundance of humor amidst a wee bit of the dark side, but there is one element I found less than attractive. It seemed to me to at times to be just a bit too rude and raw. Poking fun at Mormonism or any religion can be genuinely funny without necessarily being over the top rude.
Monty Python’s The Life of Brian clearly presents a totally irreverent depiction of the life of Jesus, yet it remains mainly a presentation of joyous humor. But having a group of African villagers all chanting “Hasa Diga Eebowai” which translates to “F**k you – God” and having a local War Lord shoot and kill a man simply because he expressed disagreement with the plan to mutilate the village women just doesn’t quite strike me as funny. Then again I do acknowledge that humor is often rooted in pain. And I acknowledge that The Book of Mormon has received wide spread critical acclaim. So perhaps you should go see it for yourself now through July 9th.
The Book of Mormon is currently at The Hollywood Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, California. The performance schedule is Tuesday through Friday evenings at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
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You may also enjoy some visual art here.
Top photo by Jamie Loeb
Ron Irwin was born in Chicago, Illinois a long time ago. He served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam, became a trial lawyer, TV and radio host, CEO of a public company and once held an Emmy. He never won an Emmy he just held one. Ron has written and published twelve books. His most important book to date is “Live, Die, Live Again” in which Ron tells of his early life and his unexpected and very temporary death in 2012. That experience dramatically refocused his life and within the pages of that book Ron reveals how he achieved a much healthier life, ridding himself of Diabetes, Cancer and Heart Failure. Now Ron enjoys writing about many things including health topics, travel [he has circled the globe several times], adventure, culinary experiences and the world of performing art. Ron’s motto is “Live better, live longer and live stronger because it feels great and annoys others.” Contact the author.