The Book of Mormon: Irreverence, Insults, Laughs, Great Music & Fun

SCHENECTADYThe Book of Mormon is a satirical look at the missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Known for their white shirts, black ties, and clip-on name tags, these missionaries have spread the word for years going door-to-door around the world. The show follows two new missionaries as they set out to Uganda to a remote village to bring the teachings of the church and convert the nonbelievers. The villagers are concerned with more pressing issues: AIDS, famine, female genital mutilation, child molestation, and the local warlord. What a baseline for a fun evening in the theater. 

The cast of The Book of Mormon (photo by Julieta Cervantes)

Book, music, and lyrics are a collaborative effort by Matt Stone and Trey Parker of South Park fame and Robert Lopez of Avenue Q renown. The three have crafted a very skewed look at missionary life. The show is an equal opportunity offender…there is no shortage of insults and irreverent caricatures being hurled across the footlights at an audience eager to grab them up. 

The practically sold-out house at Proctors Friday night was more than responsive. Here for a short three-day run, Mormon has returned to Schenectady to help warm up the audience during this arctic blast. 

(l-r) Sam Nackman and Sam McLellan (photo by Julieta Cervantes)

The non-equity cast is led by Sam McLellan as Elder Kevin Price, the All-American white bread handsome youth who feels that, if he prays hard enough, he will get his two-year mission to the land of his dreams – Orlando. He is paired for his mission with Elder Arnold Cunningham (Sam Nackman), an insecure pathological liar (by his own admission), pop culture obsessed, and thrilled to just be along for the ride in the hopes that one day he will not be a disappointment to his father. McLellan and Nackman lead an incredibly talented cast of 30. They all sing, dance, act, and have great comic timing. 

McLellan’s strong voice carries his duets “You & Me” and “I am Here for You,” along with leading the ensemble in “I Believe.” The infinitely more comic Nackman takes control in “Making Things Up Again,” and shows his more masterful singing voice in the duet “Baptize Me.”  

Berlande (photo by Julieta Cervantes)

The teenage village girl, Nabulungi, who gets the village people to listen to Elder Cunningham, as portrayed by Berlande, has a stunningly powerful voice. The cast is supported by Sean Casey Flanagan as Elder McKinley, the very clearly gay Elder, who tells the other Elders that, when they have thoughts that should be suppressed, to “Turn It Off.” The Warlord General, Trevor Dorner, and the village Doctor, Klye Segar, add additional layers to this wonderfully talented cast. All are backed up by an equally strong ensemble that rounds out this extravagant production.

Director Jennifer Werner has captured the heart, soul, and spirit of the original Broadway production. Scott Pask’s set design, Ann Roth’s costumes, Brian MacDevitt’s lighting, and Chad Parsley’s sound design round out the superb technical aspects of this production. Music Director Mason Moss leads the eight-plus pit orchestra with an obvious joy that can be observed if you watch his direction from the monitor placed for the performers on the balcony.

Book of Mormon is most certainly an adult musical. Very liberally sprinkled (well, almost rained upon) with profanity, sexual innuendo, blasphemy, satire, and offensive comments, yet if you proceed with the mindset of not taking yourself too seriously you will have a great time. There is also a message hidden in all of this… about believing in yourself when others might not and conversely not banking on what everyone expects you to be rather than realizing who you are. 

(l-r) Sam Nackman, Berlende, and Sam McLellan (photo by Julieta Cervantes)

Mormon dropped into Proctors late in the scheduling process and for just a very brief run this time around. If you have the opportunity, go see it. You’ll find that you forget about the freezing cold that awaits just outside the theater, at least for a few hours.
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