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The Book of Mormon

The toughest ticket in town lives up to its reviews and then some, so if you're lucky enough to get the chance, jump on it.

Sure, it's totally irreverent and, yes, there are a fair share of blue streaks, but—and this is the kicker—there is a method to the madness of those South Park crazies, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and their talented Broadway-seasoned co-creative, Robert Lopez (Avenue Q music and lyrics, original concept, animation design).

Wrapped within traditional Broadway musical structure is a farce in which Mel Brooks on Viagra (or, estrogen, for that matter) would fit right in. Like the tome on which it is based, The Book of Mormon takes liberties with reality, but therein lies the synergy for one hilarious number after another.

Of course, this could be any religion taking the potshots, but most of the others have already been shot to holes with satire. So, it's the Mormons' turn. Considering Romney's impending nomination by "Republicans," you have to be impressed by the timing of this show, which won nine Tony Awards© in 2011 after seven years in development.

Gavin Creel as Elder Price
Gavin Creel as Elder Price
Photo: Joan Marcus
George Bernard Shaw once said, "There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it." One of those versions is Mormonism, more formally known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you're not familiar with the Mormon narrative, the musical tells you all you need to know—how Joseph Smith "discovered" the book, the journey to Utah and the founding of Salt Lake City, and the worldwide mission of the church—through the hyperbolic imaginations of the creative team.

The production numbers are completely over the top, the crowning glory of an extravagant progression that began with Busby Berkeley, was carried to zany heights by Mel Brooks in The Producers, and goes ballistic in The Book of Mormon.

Jared Gertner as Elder Cunningham
Jared Gertner as Elder Cunningham
Photo: Joan Marcus
A couple of 19-year old Mormon missionaries, Elder Price (Gavin Creel) and Elder Cunningham (Jared Gertner), have just finished their training and are about to be assigned a territory to convert and baptize the locals. Price sees himself as G-d's gift to the Mormons, and hopes to be assigned to Orlando, Florida—his version of paradise on Earth. Cunningham is a nerdy outcast that has a hard time making friends. The two are assigned as a team and sent to Uganda. Price does not take this well.

Creel and Gertner mix like oil and water, the perfect chemistry for this far-flung farce. You'll rejoice when the egocentric Elder Price gets smacked down from his pedestal while the nebbish Elder Cunningham "man ups" to the job at hand.

Elder Cunningham preaches his own version of events
Elder Cunningham preaches
his own version of events
Photo: Joan Marcus
There is a love interest as well, the lovely Nabulungi (Samantha Marie Ware), who gets turned on by Cunningham's clever conflation of Mormonism, Star Wars, and the local folk mythology, leading to a whole new version of the Mormon story as only the South Park and Avenue Q boys could imagine it. The Mission President (Mike McGowan) does not take this well.

And did we mention that the chorus is mahvelous, darling!

Just when you think the absurdities have reached the limit, Parker, Lopez, and Stone surprise us with a message that is surprisingly spiritual. Touché! As Shaw once commented, "Christianity would be a good thing if anyone practiced it."

Denver Center Attractions presentation of The Book of Mormon runs through September 2nd. There are lottery tickets available for every show. For more information: 303-893-4100 or www.denvercenter.org. The tour is scheduled to return to Denver in October 2013.

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