It’s hard to be cool when you’re a musical. Teaching a lovable group of scamps how to sing harmony for “The Lonely Goatherd” is not exactly hip—the cool kids are making entirely different, inappropriate jokes about the goatherd. So it is some kind of minor miracle that Trey Parker and Matt Stone manage to make some staggeringly profane jokes (not about the goatherd—they’ve got bigger targets in mind), yet keep The Book of Mormon an absolute love letter to the Rodgers and Hammerstein style of musical.
“There’s just nothing more perfect in the universe to me than a good musical. And a bad musical makes you want to kill yourself,” Parker has said. “A good musical is, to me, so much more moving and powerful than a great movie or a great book, or anything.”
Which is not to say that Parker and Stone let their earnestness get in the way of their trademark sense of humor. The Book of Mormon, which opens at the Smith Center on June 10 and plays there until July 6, follows the adventures of Mormon missionaries Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, who are sent to war-torn Uganda to preach the good news to a cynical group of locals. You quickly learn that while “Hakuna Matata” may cut it for Disney’s “Africa,” these folks have a much different approach, as embodied in “Hasa Diga Eebowai,” which roughly translates as “F*ck You, God.”
The Book of Mormon doesn’t stop there—or anywhere, really—with enough swearing and inappropriate humor to make a South Park viewer blush, gleefully skewering articles of the Mormon faith, liberal do-gooders in Africa, AIDS and just about everything else. It’s shocking, sweet and jaw-droppingly funny, making sure you’ll never look at a musical quite the same way again.
The Book of Mormon June 10-July 6; Tuesday-Sunday, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday, 2 p.m.; $39-$150. Smith Center’s Reynolds Hall, 702-749-2000.