What do you get if you combine the co-creator of Avenue Q, the creators of South Park, and America's nicest and goofiest home-grown religion? You get The Book of Mormon, an energetic musical that's both irreverent and sweet -- and whose songs are damn funny.

The play has the format of a road trip/fish-out-of-water story. In Salt Lake City, the Mormons are being paired up and sent off to do missionary work. Elder Cunningham is nerdy, nervous, and prone to making things up. Elder Price is handsome, charismatic, and dreams of going to Orlando. But while the other Mormons get great assignments ("Oh, Japan!" "Land of soy sauce!" "And Mothra!") Price isn't happy to find that he and Elder Cunningham are going to Uganda -- where starvation, AIDS, and warlords make life miserable. What are two amazingly polite white missionaries to do?

The Book of Mormon soundtrack is terrific, capturing the story of the play and providing a nice variety of musical styles. The Mormon world is overly clean-cut, from a chorus of doorbell-ringing pitches ("Hello!") to a goal of repressing one's emotions ("Turn It Off") to a rousing anthem of Mormon beliefs ("I Believe") that includes all the goofy ones. Meanwhile, Africa has its own sound: the coping phrase "Hasa Diga Eebowai" (which, when you know the translation, won't replace "Hakuna Matata" as your feel-good phrase), the idealized version of Salt Lake City ("Sal Tlay Ka Siti"), and the pretentious "I Am Africa" ("Like Bono!"). And both sounds, like both sides in the play, come together for the big finale "Tomorrow Is A Latter Day."

Parody is easy, and mockery too, but The Book of Mormon soundtrack manages to walk the line between making fun of the Mormons and not overlooking their silliness. There's plenty of crude humor ("I can't believe Jesus called me a dick!" "Let's be really fucking polite to everyone!"), but also lots of silliness, from the near-campy "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" to a baptism presented just like a deflowering. We even get two versions of the Mormon history: the official one ("All-American Prophet") and the one with Elder Cunningham's embellishments ("Joseph Smith American Moses") that includes the starship Enterprise and a magical fuck frog. It all works very well, showing both a wicked sense of humor and a love for catchy Broadway tunes.

The Book of Mormon won the Tony for best new comedy, and The Book of Mormon soundtrack is a great reflection of the humor, heart, and twisted laughs of the play. It's a delight.

Overall grade: A
Reviewed by James Lynch

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