“Hi. Would you like to hear about the ‘Book of Mormon’?
“Wait, wait. I am not asking you to convert today. Only to think about this. There’s dancing, exotic travel to Africa and smiling faces no matter what. NO MATTER WHAT. And if things don’t go the way you expected, like ending up in a village with men pointing guns at you, simply turn off those thoughts.
“You only have to commit two years of your life. I mean, two hours of your life. So, what do you think?”
For those in the audience Wednesday night at the Overture Center in Madison, there were plenty of musical converts as “The Book of Mormon” kicked off the second night of its week-long run.
And I have to be upfront right away. I thought the people handing books outside were part of the cast. I thought, what a nice touch.
Since the Overture Center has opened I have not loved another musical as much as this – the story, the dancing, the comedy. Did I mention there’s “Star Wars” references everywhere?
At times I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to laugh as hard as I did. I mean, it felt wrong, but so right.
But this is a musical from the creators of the television show “South Park,” so inappropriate is what they do.
The musical is like going to comedy club and laughing so hard you might even miss the next joke.
The story begins with Mormon men being paired to travel to places like Norway.
We meet Elder Price who is an enthusiastic person, to say the least, and his traveling partner Elder Cunningham, a socially awkward person who mixes “Star Wars” trilogy stories with the actual “Book of Mormon” facts. All in good faith to try and convince others to join the cause.
While the assignments for travel are given out, Elder Price, played by Liam Tobin, who played the same role on Broadway, finds out he is headed to Uganda. He is going to a squalor of a village filled with poverty and violence. And to make matters worse, he has a new, best, nerdy buddy in Elder Cunningham, played by Jordan Matthew Brown who steals many of the laughs but also many of the poignant moments.
After a long, and very funny goodbye at the airport, the two men are headed for a mission that is not as easy as once thought. In fact, when they get there they meet other Mormons on a mission who have converted no one in this tribe.
But do not be discouraged, Elder Cunningham has a charm about him that wins over a girl in the village. Their love dance is so awkward, a key term for this musical, they not only melt each other’s hearts, but also the hearts of the audience.
So what if the word Elder Cunningham is giving is skewed. This story is about friendship in the hardest of times. Try not to fall in love with these loveable missionaries who find the bright spot in a mission that’s impossible.
This play is not for every age. There’s plenty of bad language, but the story is pure.
This is one of those musicals where you don’t have to know the music at all to have a great time. You even might be singing “Turn it Off” as you walk out the theater.
While this is a comedy and musical, the message is about friendship, love and understanding that “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” are two different shows. OK, it’s about more than that.
And if you have any bad feelings after this show, simply listen to the missionaries and their advice – “Turn it off.”
No matter what the day brings, put a smile on your face and be happy.
Put that white shirt and black tie on and head to see this show – the best the Overture Center has put on.
Sorry “Chicago” and “Lion King.” I still love you.
But I am converting to the “Book of Mormon” as my new favorite musical.