Looking to laugh? ‘The Book of Mormon’ is the way to go

by MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

If you’re looking for a night of laughter, you absolutely can’t go wrong if you buy yourself a ticket for the current road tour of “The Book of Mormon.”

The comic musical created by the masterminds of the animated series, “South Park,” is pointed, scatological, devilishly insightful, and sacrilegious– all of the earmarks of a great comedy.

The show follows a tradition of such iconic comic musicals unafraid to take potshots at sacred cows… such as Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” or the Marx Brothers’ “Duck Soup.”

The show follows a group of Mormon missionaries who set out to convert the residents of a village in the African war-torn nation of Uganda.

The creative team of Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone clearly understand the conventions of great comedy and the stage musical art form. And the accolades for the show through the years are well-deserved.

This road tour upholds with great aplomb the reputation of the show. The cast – from the leads to the ensemble—are well-matched with the show.

Key to the success of the road production that rolled into Hartford Feb. 14  were the leads, Gabe Gibbs as the darling son of the Mormon church, Elder Price; and Conner Peirson, the born follower and pathological liar, Elder Cunningham.

The pairing between Gibbs and Peirson followed the classic buddy humor archetype. The pairing had echoes of Abbott and Costello, pairing an inept man-child (Peirson) with a dapper, confident, but flawed straight man (Gibbs).

The comic chemistry between Gibbs and Peirson was undeniable. The actors also were able to effectively portray the affection for one another beneath the surface of the antagonism written into the cast.

Leanne Robinson as Nabulungi, the ingénue of the show and chaste love interest of Cunningham, also was delightful. The character could easily have devolved into a clueless bimbo girl-child. But Robinson is able to convey that her absence of perspective was more a result of her location off the grid of Western culture and not due to the lack of IQ.

The show’s laughs also are derived from physical humor on stage. Whether it was the blocking or the choreography, there was a method to the madness—go for the guffaw. The performances were over the top, but the direction was clearly controlled. The cast was like a well-oiled machine where all the parts smoothly crafted the final product.

The cast also is full of amazing singers. Peirson and Gibbs, in particular, show great facility at working the vocals in a way that never breaks character.

By all means, “The Book of Mormon” is miles away from good clean family fun. If you’re looking for a pleasant story about the wonders of Jesus and the Mormon way, this isn’t it. But if you’re interested in laughing at an original story that lovingly mines the traditions of comedy and musicals, “The Book of Mormon,” especially this road production, is the way to go.

I give “The Book of Mormon” four out of four stars.

“The Book of Mormon” continues at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford tonight, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m. For tickets, go to www.Bushnell.org

‘The Book of Mormon’ continues at The Bushnell in Hartford through Sunday. (JOAN MARCUS PHOTO)