Clevelanders: ANSWER YOUR DOORBELLS because the Mormons have arrived at Playhouse Square! Playing for a limited engagement on the KeyBank State Theatre stage now through September 17, these shiny, happy preachers are here to share “The Book of Mormon” with you through song, dance, sparkles, warlords and even some F-bombs.
The brainchild of Southpark’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone, “The Book of Mormon” is an irreverent and brilliantly thoughtful musical about Mormon missionaries Elder Kevin Price and Elder Arnold Cunningham’s surprise religious assignment to Uganda.
From the first moment the characters are introduced in the opening number, “Hello!,” it’s obvious that these are squeaky-clean, overly-optimistic do-gooders… with issues. Their glowing, elated demeanors span from their bright white shirts and neat ties, to their giant smiles and friendly greetings. What could go wrong all the way over in Africa?
The show is masterfully crafted to mix the absurd with the heartfelt. The over-arching meaty themes of leaving home, living up to expectations, dealing with poverty amidst war, battling one’s own pride, and finding peace in religion are all very real. But those pieces are then thrown into a blender along with a wicked mix of foul language, sexual innuendos, and tiny bits of shock value meant to puree your experience into a giant holy bowl of WTF?! And it tastes so good.
The touring cast is fabulous.
Gabe Gibbs (Elder Price) gives an effervescent performance with a mega-watt smile and a voice that rallies. His rendition of “I Believe” is especially powerful, despite the goofball lyrics that creep into the score, his intent and delivery spawn goosebumps. And as for his “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” song? Let’s just say that geographical area is stupid scary, even if there is dancing and cool lighting.
Conner Peirson (Elder Cunningham) is a show-stealer. This hefty, glasses-wearing character has the energy of high-strung three-year-old on Red Bull that no toddler or tornado can match. Peirson’s got the moves, and his presentation of “Man Up” is as excellently exhausting as it is exhilarating to watch.
Myha’la Herrold (Nabulungi) is overall delightful. Although still a college senior (at Carnegie Mellon University… you know… no big deal), she is a force of innocence and hope on a stage full of chaos. Her vocals are beautiful and she has a strength in naiveté that wins over the Elders and the audience alike. Her performance of “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” truly makes Utah sound like the most magical, amazing place on Earth.
PJ Adzima (Elder McKinley) is incredibly entertaining. He takes the plight of the closeted gay Mormon man and makes it a show-stopper, especially in “Turn It Off.”
Audience members are blown away by their experiences.
“Yes I have seen it before! I thought it was amazing! I loved Nabulungi. I thought she was darling and had an incredible voice. Honestly, I laughed so hard I had a headache when I left! It definitely isn’t a show for someone who gets offended quite easily, but it is so clever and entertaining!” – Allison Erni of Cleveland, OH.
“This was my first time seeing the show! I loved being in an incredibly full theater, where you had the sense everyone was on the same page. “Am I allowed to laugh at this? It’s so wrong, and I know that, but we’re gonna laugh!” It’s nice being able to put a mirror up to some of these issues and enjoy them with humor, and not have people arguing about them.” – Katelyn Cornelius of Lakewood, OH.
Audiences only have a limited number of times left to laugh (and possibly convert) with these friendly Mormons, as “The Book of Mormon” plays at Playhouse Square through September 17, 2017. Tickets are $30.00 – $150.00. Call 216-241-6000 or visit www.playhousesquare.org for more!