Theater review: The Book of Mormon at the Peace Center
Everyone in the vicinity of the Peace Center after the Wednesday, March 6, performance of The Book of Mormon seemed to have had a blast with the foul-mouthed musical from “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Avenue Q’s Robert Lopez.
Well, maybe not the legitimate LDS teen stationed outside the venue, indistinguishable from the cast members collecting donations for Broadway Cares after the show, tricking departing theatergoers into a dialogue on “the real thing,” a bound copy of which he held in his hand.
No, that young man was getting his jollies from a different source, the kind brilliantly lampooned in the show’s zippy two hours that also applauds any organized effort to genuinely improve people’s lives, even if the means’ narrative pinnings are best interpreted as metaphors.
Visually busy in an accessible manner, The Book of Mormon encourages viewers’ eyes to stay active during the opening number that introduces prototypical LDS golden boy Elder Price (Liam Tobin) and chubby misfit Elder Cunningham (Conner Peirson, sounding a bit like a more accessible Bobcat Goldthwait).
The textbook Mutt & Jeff duo are naturally paired for their mission to the surprising — at least to the Orlando-wishing Price — destination of Uganda, laid forth via believable shantytown stage design that flips with ease to transform into sufficient interiors.
In the village and with their fellow missionaries, Tobin and Peirson are the anchors of an elite cast-wide chemistry in which practically all of the side players get a chance to earn laughs and convey their distinct inner dramas. Chief among them is Kayla Pecchioni as the young men’s African peer Nabulungi, an innocent dreamer whose name Cunningham butchers with a new hilarious homonym each time he attempts to say it.
As they meet villagers and an encroaching warlord who aren’t as excited about God as the visitors had hoped, Price and especially Cunningham find creative means to serve their potential converts’ needs, earning steady laughs while intelligently exploring hot-button subject matter — essentially the formula that’s kept the Parker/Stone brand of comedy edgy and relevant for over 20 years.
With material so reliant on sung humor and in a live setting, however, there’s mild frustration when a decent amount of potential laughs are lost in the balance between vocalists and the orchestra. But in such instances as the overstuffed insanity of “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” and others, the visual gags generally compensate for the occasional indecipherable lyric jokes.
Considering the amount of creativity on display, maybe the would-be young proselytizer would like it, too.
The Book of Mormon runs through March 10 at the Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina. For tickets, visit peacecenter.org.
(Photos by Julieta Cervantes, courtesy of the Peace Center)