Photo Credit: Broadway Dallas

Review by Martha Heimberg

Tony Award-winning musical The Book of Mormon got roars of applause and laughter from the opening night audience at Fair Park Music Hall on Tuesday. The touring production, presented by Broadway Dallas, runs through the weekend.

Co-creators Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Parker Lopez poke some fun at everybody from teenage Mormon missionaries to the founding fathers of their made-in-America religion, to the cursing, been-there-done-that folks in the African village they’re assigned to convert. Sure, it’s R-rated satire with a potty mouth and a total disrespect for all parental and religious demands, but the show is truly hilarious, the songs are witty, and the knock-out cast can dance up a storm. 

Jennifer Werner directs and choreographs the show, based on the original Casey Nicholas dances for the original show. The combination of rat-a-tat tap, African tribal rhythms, and some get-down hip-hop is a wildly energetic recipe for coordinated chaos. 

Scott Pask’s elegant set, shifting swiftly from a straw-hut village to outlying action, and Ann Roth’s bright, clever costumes are from the original Broadway production. Stephen Oregmus’s original musical arrangements are led here by Mason Moss and a cool 8-man band in the orchestra pit.  

The popular musical premiered on Broadway in 2011, so many audience members are old fans, waiting for a favorite number or comic scene. Two young Mormons are setting out on their two-year missionary stint, a must-do in the faith, to somewhere that the Church of the Latter-Day Saints wishes to convert more Mormons. Knock on the door and say, “Hello!” All together now. 

Other guys get to go to Japan and Norway and other vacation spots. Our oddball team is assigned to Uganda. One is delighted when he finds out it’s in Africa because he’ll get to see the real Lion King. The other had his hopes set on Orlando. Have these two even read The Book? No matter, we’re off with them on a comic journey that bounces merrily along, from giggles to guffaws. 

Photo Credit: Broadway Dallas

Make way for a glowing blonde Jesus, a funny, blasphemous take on founder Joseph Smith in “ancient America”, and some wacky costume conversions. After two hours of ardent singing and exuberant dancing, we reach a revelation. A couple of ignorant, sunny American boys have brought something more than The Book to their mission, and they’ve learned much more about Africans than Simba’s roar. It takes a village, right?

Our main dudes couldn’t be more different. Elder Price (a cocky, take-charge Sam McLellan) has no doubt that “You and Me (But Mostly Me)” are going to convert the world. Elder Cunningham (an awkward, bespeckled Sam Nackman) just wants to be the helpful sidekick to Price’s suave, confident hero. Both actors ham it up physically with the running jokes born of their forced companionship, one cringing while the other sings a nighty-night lullaby to him.  

Turns out the villagers in Uganda are fed up with talk of baptism and the hereafter. They’ve got AIDS, gun-happy mercenaries, and real hunger to deal with in the here and now. Village leader Mafala (a virile, protective Lamont J. Whitaker) cusses our duo out bigtime, all in a rhythmic song in his native language. Villagers do know the f-word, and so do our hapless elders. Curious and opinionated Nabalungi (a vibrant, full-throated Keke Nesbitt) is Mafala’s beautiful daughter, who hears out the eager pair, and introduces them to other villagers. Nesbitt brings not only a hall-filling voice to “Sal Tlay Ka Siti”, but a captivating innocence in her salute to Salt Lake City, Utah, where she imagines all good things abide.

Photo Credit: Broadway Dallas

The show moves fast, and the songs tell it all. White-shirted fellow missionaries have a motto song, “Turn It Off” for dealing with the terrors of sexual expression and the constant fear of failing to meet your quota of baptisms.  Elder Cunningham (Arnold to his pals) and pretty Nabalungi have a hilarious duet in “Baptize Me,” a first for both. 

The ensemble work is good throughout. The big crowd-pleaser number features a dream of Disneyland turning into a nightmare from hell, where a sexy Satan with huge red wings  holds forth over a throng of demons and skeletons in “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream”. Disneyland as hell is a no-brainer, but it’s all in a young Mormon’s learning curve.

Whether you’ve read it in print or not, The Book of Mormon is a bright night out, with a good laugh and a happy ending, all set to a rousing rhythm. Bonus! See a full moon rising over the Music Hall this week!

For tickets, go to