I am Cultural Critic Iride Aparicio,
And I would like to share with you my opinion of
THE BOOK OF MORMON
Photos by: Joan Marcus
The Book of Mormon Company
SAN JOSÉ, CA – THE BOOK OF MORMON, a Broadway San José, Nederlander Presentation, which played a record breaking two-week run in the city in 2015 when it was first presented, returns, by popular demand, to the SAN JOSE CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS with a cast so dynamic that electrified the audience in opening night.
THE BOOK OF MORMON is a musical comedy, but unlike many comedies, its plot, is based in a combination of fiction and facts.
The Book of Mormon, is a religious text written in golden plates by an angel named Mormon, and given to JOSEPH SMITH, an American Prophet, who translated it, with divine assistance, and published as "The Book of Mormon." The book describes itself as the chronicle of early indigenous Americans and their dealing with God.
Mormonism,(the religion) is the predominant religious tradition of the Latter Day Saint movement of Restorationist Christianity, (Which is distinguished from Protestantism).
The religion started in Upstate New York, in the year 1820, during a period of religious excitement known as the Second Great Awakening. In what he calls “The First Vision” American farmer and Prophet JOSEPH SMITH, was told by God Himself in a revelation, not to join any of the existing churches, because they were wrong and informed that God would use him to to re-establish the true Christian church with the help of The Book of Mormon.
SMITH claimed that The Book of Mormon was translated from the writing on golden plates (written in a reformed Egyptian Language) that was translated with the Urim and Thummim and seer stones and that an angel showed him the location of these plates, near a hill in his farm, that relate the story of an early Israeli diaspora called the Nephites. who lived in America. The story is Called “the third book of the Bible” by the Mormons.
SMITH was not allowed to unbury the plates until l827, when he copied the ll6 pages written on them, and translated them, by the power of God, in The Book of Mormon. SMITH never allowed anybody to see those plates and he claimed that after been translated, they were returned to the angel.In l844, after SMITH was killed by an angry mob, the Mormons followed BRIGHAM YOUNG to the “Promised Land” (Utah).
THE BOOK OF MORMON (THE MUSICAL)
The musical focus is two seventeen year old Mormon Missionaries, Elder Price (GABE GIBBS) and Elder Cunningham, CONNER PEIRSON, who after graduating from the Missionary Training Center in Salt Lake City, are pared with each other to go to for two years to spread Mormonism to the habitants of a remote village in Uganda.
The Ugandans are simple people. They live in shacks. All are poor and because they depend on what they grow, they go hungry during draughts. Because of their lack of education and proper medicine, many of them are infected with AIDS. Some believe that AIDS may be cured by mating with a Virgins, and with so few Virgins in the village, want to mate with babies. One of their rites is to castrate their women. Their only Doctor is sick and broadcast aloud that he has Maggots in his private parts.
The Musical begins in ancient times in the clouds of Ancient Upstate New York with the Prophet Mormon telling us that the story of His people is inscribed in Sacred Golden Plates. Mormon gives to plates to His son who buries them on earth, with the hope that one day An Special person will find them. Centuries later, they are found by JOSEPH SMITH.
The next scene represents the Missionary Training Center in Salt Lake City, where with the Mormon Temple in the background we see ten young Missionaries in white shirts, black pants and tie, standing in a row, The Mormon Missionaries are trained to give the people the idea that they are neat, polite, and friendly. They must smile after ringing people’s doors’bells and greet the people. In this case, our missionaries simulate that they are ringing different door bells singing “Hello, my name is Elder (give their name) and I would like to share with you the most amazing book”
After a scene at the airport with their parents saying goodbye, and one of their neighbors, dressed in a Lion King’s African Costume, our young missionaries board their plane and fly to Uganda, Africa.
Wearing African Attire, a neighbor says goodbye to GIBBS & PEIRSON
The cast of this National Touring Company is natural in their acting (The show was Under the Direction of CASEY NICHOLAW and TREY PARKER) and on Press Opening Night, each actor gave the audience a peak performance.
In the principal roles, arrogant Elder Price (GABE GIBBS) made us believe that be could change the world,” in “You and Me (but mostly Me)" but it was humble Elder Cunningham (CONNER PEIRSON) who actually changed the world of the Ugandans, when after realizing his own lack of self esteem, decided to “man up,” become a preacher, and “made up things again”, by altering THE BOOK OF MORMON’s teachings to bring them to the understanding level of the villagers’ minds.
Worth mentioning in the cast was also the role of Nabulungi, played by actress MYHA’LA HERROLD, a San Jose, native, who graduated from San José’s Archbishop Mitty High School in 2014, and who had just joined the cast in her first public performance and in her first Broadway tour. On the night of her debut, HERROLD shone as bright as a star.
The choreography (CASEY NICHOLAW) of the musical is visual, and while the village in Uganda is realistic, the inside of the fiery Hell with a fierce- looking Devil in the background looks scary enough to actually represent the “spooky Mormon Dream.”
The natives of Uganda listening to Elder CUNNINGHAM (PEIRSON)
Yet, because of the outrageous sense of humor of its writers, THE BOOK OF MORMON is not a musical that may be enjoyed by everyone. Some people finds its humor vulgar, offensive and even sinful, because the musical mentions “unmentionable” (male and female) body parts, and makes fun of individuals who are considered Sacred to many people, such as Prophets JOSEPH SMITH and BRIGHAM YOUNG and JESUS CHRIST. The musical has also a song “Hasa Diga Eebowai” which is sung by the Ugandans dancing as they raise their middle finger to heaven, in which they curse the Almighty for all their calamities. This song offends many people.
In the musical, however, the Book of Mormon, serves a purpose when Nabulungi ( HERROLD) mistakenly believing that Sal Tlay Ka Siti (Salt Lake City) is the “Joy paradise” that her mother had told her about, decides to follow the “white man.
THE BOOK OF MORMON With music and lyrics by TREY PARKER, ROBERT LOPEZ and MATT STONE, (PARKER and STONE are four-time Emmy Award-winning creators of the animated series South Park and LOPEZ is the cocreator of Avenue “Q”) opened at the Eugene O’neill Theatre in Broadway in March 20ll, after nearly seven years in development, and was the winner of nine Tony Awards including the one for Best Musical that year, a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Broadway Musical and the New York Drama Critic’s Circle for Best Musical.
THE BOOK OF MORMON will be shown at THE SAN JOSE CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS, 255 S Almaden Blvd. in S.J. until July 23. For tickets go to you can go online to www.broadwaysanjose.com or order by phone by calling: (800) 982-2787.