Review: 'Book of Mormon' finds humor in faith

Julieta CervantesMissionaries get ready to go into the field in "The Book of Mormon," now in performance at Clowes Memorial Hall in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS — There's a beer sold in Salt Lake City that gently pokes fun at the faith that has located its majestic mothership there.

"Polygamy" beer — named after the former practice by leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — features three mostly naked females and one male frolicking on its label. The beer's pretty good, too.

We happened to end up this summer in Salt Lake City, an exceptionally clean town that has its humor amid Temple Square and its always present skyline.

Salt Lake City is not without humor.

In fact, the LDS church routinely buys ad space in the Playbill program distributed at performances of "The Book of Mormon," the raucous musical playing this weekend at Clowes Memorial Hall.

That all brings us to the latest presentation of the musical by "South Park's" Trey Parker and Matt Stone and co-lyricist Robert Lopez.

On my fourth visit now to the show, I no longer look for deep metaphors hidden beneath the profane. Though it's still clear that the root of thought here is that every human is entitled to have any belief in faith — no matter the silliness of its genesis — as long as it doesn't hurt another person.

This time, as with the visit to Salt Lake City, I just let it wash over me. What a joy "The Book of Mormon" still is.

Centered around the Ugandan mission work of Elder Price (a committed Liam Tobin) and Elder Cunningham (an energetic Conner Peirson), the romp introduces us to an AIDS-rampant village, a murderous warlord and a group of naive white boy missionaries.

As I've often said, if an audience member can survive the fourth song, "Hasa Diga Eebowai," and, to put it mildly, the extension of a middle finger skyward, then they can easily survive the rest of the two-and-a-half hour show.

The pairing of Tobin and Peirson is critical and they gel well as fish out of water. Tobin finds the ranges between glee, dread and despair and belts the show-stopping "I Believe" with verve. Peirson's animated enthusiasm is hilarious.

The other young adult, white missionaries combine to be an equal character. They comically ring doorbells in the opening "Hello," tap dance with glittering vests in "Turn it Off" and turn into Chippendales in "Man Up."

It's also wise to do a quick Google search of lyrics. There's a lot packed in. For example, Ugandans sing, "Americans already found a cure for AIDS but they're saving it for a latter day" as a passing statement. Or as Elder Cunningham tries to "Man Up," he sings, "What did Jesus do when they put nails through his hands? / Did he scream like a girl. Or did he take it like a man?"

You've got to know what you're getting into here.

But I can't think of a better Christmas present than seeing "The Book of Mormon" again. Most of the people sitting around me had seen it and were bringing novices. Good for them.

After all, every denomination has its serious moments of faith but should be able, like the LDS Church has shown, to take a few jabs.

The production will conduct a pre-show lottery at the Clowes box office, 4602 Sunset Ave., for limited number of tickets available at $25 apiece. Entries will be accepted at the box office beginning two and a half hours prior to each performance.

Each person will print their name and the number of tickets (1 or 2) they wish to purchase on a provided card. Two hours before curtain, names will be drawn for a limited number of tickets. Only one entry is allowed per person. Winners must be present at the time of the drawing and show valid ID to purchase tickets.

If you go

What: "The Book of Mormon," the Tony-winning musical

When: Through Dec. 23

Where: Clowes Memorial Hall, 4602 Sunset Ave., Indianapolis

Tickets: Available in person at Clowes Memorial Hall, the Old National Centre Ticket Office, online at BroadwayinIndianapolis.com, or by phone at 1-800-982-2787.

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