I’ve seen “The Book of Mormon” before, but only figured it out while watching the spirited touring company performance at the Lied Center for Performing Arts on Wednesday.
It’s Abbott and Costello go to Africa as Mormon missionaries in a musical “South Park” style. That means two hours of great fun of satire aimed at more than just the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, filled with topical pop-culture references (there’s even a Nancy Pelosi joke, you can’t get more current than that) while messing around with Broadway tropes.
Hence, to choose a couple examples, there’s “Turn It Off,” the sparkly pink vest-clad production number that takes off as one of the missionaries tries to squelch his gay feelings, appearances by Yoda, Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura and a gospel that works in everything from the Death Star to a cure for dysentery.
That gospel is propounded by Elder Cunningham, the Costello of the pair, a short, chubby screw-up, played to the hilt by Conner Peirson, who brings some well-honed comedy styling against the tall, ambitious and serious Elder Price (Liam Tobin), who impressed vocally, nailing “I Believe.”
The musical’s third major character is Nabulungi, the Ugandan woman, who after meeting the “imaginative” Cunningham becomes the first in her village to convert to Mormonism — which sets up another tweak of the standard musical as “I Baptize” becomes an innuendo-filled romantic duet.
She’s played by Kayla Pecchioni with perfect drama and some fine singing — playing things straight to create laughs.
As would be expected from a national touring company, the production is creative and seamless, the orchestra strong, the show tight and so fast-moving it brought to mind watching a couple religious-themed episodes of “South Park” back-to-back.
As I said, I’ve previously experienced “The Book of Mormon.” Wednesday’s performance stands out at the best I’ve seen. Its Lied Center run goes through Sunday. Catch it if you can — I guarantee it’s great fun.