Review + photos: The Book of Mormon is a godsend!

Categories: Theater

book of mormon jared.jpg
Jared Gertner as Elder Cunningham.
These terrible ills are quite real (as the Denver Center Theatre Company's brilliant production of Ruined brought forcefully home a year back), making this dangerous territory for satire. And the history of colonialism teems with white men sallying forth to bring the light of civilization to the dark-skinned masses. Parker and Stone don't minimize any of this. Instead, they clear the air by making these things funny -- beyond funny. Fizzy, crazy and entirely unrealistic. The missionaries are complete goofs, as are the Africans. The moment that captures a world of meaning in a single searing image occurs when Elder Price braves the General's camp. Singing ecstatically, he seizes the General's hand and pulls him to his feet, eyes turned heavenward, chest filled with the joy and glory of his belief. And there's the General beside him, torn between rage and sheer incredulity.

We know from South Park episodes and also their feature film, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, that Parker and Stone understand the musical form to their bones. For Mormon, they joined with Robert Lopez, of the boundary-breaking Avenue Q, and the result is both parody and homage. There isn't a single dud among the songs, and I haven't been as exhilarated by a showpiece in years as I was by the diabolically inventive Spooky Mormon Hell Dream.

The ideas may be freewheeling, but this production is tight, tight, tight. The acting could easily be over-the-top cartoony, but all of the actors are recognizably human and even, in a ridiculous way, dignified. Gavin Creel is a powerful Elder Price and Jared Gertner a charming, nebbishy Cunningham. Derrick Williams poises the warlord nicely between menace and buffoonery. And Samantha Marie Ware plays Nabulungi with sweetness and sly humor. The choreography, by Casey Nicholaw, is amazingly good, and all of the elements, including Ann Roth's costumes, Scott Pask's set design and Brian Macevitt's expressive lighting, work fluidly together.

This is an evening that dissolves distress, pain, pomposity and pretension in a blast of music, color, good humor, gut-splitting laughter and sheer joy.

The Book of Mormon, presented by Denver Center Attractions, runs through September 2 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Denver Performing Arts Complex. Although tickets are sold out, there are two rays of hope: The show will return in October 2013 and in the meantime, there's a lottery before every performance of this run. Twenty-four tickets to each show have been set aside at just $25 a seat. The lottery starts two and a half hours before each performance -- so head to the Ellie now! For more information, call 303-893-4100 or go to

Location Info


Ellie Caulkins Opera House

Denver Performing Arts Complex, Denver, CO

Category: Music

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Becky Adams Veerkamp
Becky Adams Veerkamp

Wouldn't know. Wasted an entire Saturday trying to get tix. Why such a short run in the home state?

Cheryl Llewellyn
Cheryl Llewellyn

This was a fabulous show. From sick and twisted minds comes fabulous theater.

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