The Book of Mormon at Murat Theatre 

****1/2
click to enlarge From left, Phyre Hawkins, Mark Evans and Christopher John O'Neill in The Book of Mormon. - JOAN MARCUS
  • From left, Phyre Hawkins, Mark Evans and Christopher John O'Neill in The Book of Mormon.
  • Joan Marcus

Audaciously in-your-face, The Book of Mormon equally offers raw truth and earned wisdom. Yup, Africa is nothing like The Lion King, nor is self-righteous belief the one-way ticket to redemption. You might squirm a bit through the language, yet you'll squirm much more as you recognize yourself in its mirror of humanity.

It's a delightful, topsy-turvy mash-up of borrowing across centuries from Lysistrata to The Lion King, Carmina Burana to The Music Man, Uncle Tom's Cabin to The King and I, Miss Saigon (nee Madame Butterfly) to Avenue Q, the Gospels to Jesus Christ Superstar.

You're swept into a world of believers whose fabric of belief unravels when 'their way' confronts another way. The characters on stage are as fresh and head-shakingly real as network news, except they dance and sing and deliver lines pointedly directed to entertain.

Smart dialogue and sharp observations come back to bite you - they're not just there for your spontaneous laughter or momentary shock: "Break the rules to make a change." "There is no promised land. It's not an actual place. It's an idea."

Creators Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez are sharp observers of universal truths and personal foibles and they're not shy about letting us know what they know. The running gags never outlast their welcome, the newest turn of events always surprises.

It's a musical with legs and a slew of awards to prove its worth. Everything about the production is fast-paced, sharply etched and at the top of audience expectations. Everything works as a cohesive unit - sets, lighting, sound, costumes, dialogue, music, dancing, singing flow flawlessly across terrains - and there are no distracting elements, except maybe the truths we learn about ourselves.

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