When “The Book of Mormon” took Broadway by storm, everyone seemed a little surprised that the Tony Awards were swept by those “South Park” guys.
The reality is that anyone who watched that racy little animated show knew that its creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone were more than capable of putting together a grand musical number or two, and they are the best in the business when it comes to aiming for the highbrow and the lowbrow simultaneously.
They even beefed up their Broadway bona fides by bringing in the like-minded Robert Lopez of “Avenue Q” fame and the result is one of the most hilarious, outrageous, and delightfully offensive musicals to come along in some time.
The national tour of “The Book of Mormon” is now playing at the Fox Theatre through March 3. It is not a show for those with delicate sensibilities.
For everyone else, it’s probably the most fun you’ll have at the theater all year. The story follows two young Mormon missionaries who leave Utah bright-eyed and idealistic only to find themselves sent to spread the word in the bleakest part of Uganda.
Elder Price (Mark Evans) is bright, confident, and motivated. He is teamed with Elder Cunningham (Christopher John O’Neill), who is basically everything he is not. Elder Cunningham is tubby, friendless, and possesses a hyperactive imagination. Your comedy duos don’t come more classic than this.
Interlaced within the main story is a fairly comprehensive and informative history of Mormonism from Joseph Smith and Brigham Young to the contents of the actual Book of Mormon. Of course, it’s done with Parker and Stone’s keen ironic flair.
What might be most impressive of all is just how good the songs really are, many as direct homages to some of Broadway’s most memorable tunes.
The show kicks off with “Hello,” a catchy song with several cast members singing over each other in a manner that is reminiscent of the opening number from “The Music Man.” There is also “Hasa Diga Eebowai,” a sneaky little rip-off of “Hakuna Matata” that translates a little rougher than “no worries.”
“The Book of Mormon” is also unafraid of an all-out production number as proven by the riotous “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream,” which is, well, pretty much summed up by the title.
The cast is great all around, especially Evans and O’Neill, who have great comedic presence and timing, along with some halfway decent voices.
You might expect this show to be a relentless thrashing of religion, but Parker and Stone don’t go right for the low-hanging fruit. Anyone who has seen “South Park” knows that these guys have a surprisingly strong moral compass and a lot of times try to say something noble and important, only they wrap their point of view in a shockingly rude and crude package.
“The Book of Mormon” is no different. Parker and Stone certainly don’t adhere to the Mormon belief system, but they do show an odd respect for it and faith in general.
Their point is that while the Mormons may have some goofy and repressive ideas, their heart is in the right place; and the transformative power of belief is a very real and honorable thing.
Of course, this is all surrounded by jokes about dysentery and bestiality, but you get my point.
“The Book of Mormon” is a show that pushes the boundaries of good taste and decorum, but at the same time proves that those boundaries probably needed a good shove anyway. If you don’t count yourself among the easily offended you absolutely must see this show. It is a raunchy treat.
“The Book of Mormon” is now playing at the Fox Theatre through March 3. For tickets call (314)-534-1111 or go to metrotix.com.