National Tour Review: THE BOOK OF MORMON (Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa)

Post image for National Tour Review: THE BOOK OF MORMON (Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa)

by Joel Beers on May 16, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional,Tours


As someone who has not been living beneath a rock the past three years, I’d heard about The Book of Mormon. I laughed at the soundtrack, read a few things about it, knew about all the accolades and reviews and heard glowing assessments from people who’d see it in New York or Los Angeles.

But I’d never seen it.

When I entered Segerstrom Hall Wednesday evening to see the national tour, I fully expected to experience the law of lofty expectations. Nothing that so many people like so much could possibly be that good, right?


Book of Mormon TourPick whatever superlative review you’ve read of this show and add a couple of exclamation marks: This is a hilarious, raunchy, heartfelt, slick, sleek and impossibly well-put-together entertainment—an affectionate homage to big-budget musical theater even as it gleefully skewers many of its conventions.

Southpark creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and co-writer Robert Lopez of Avenue Q fame, get most of the credit for this irreverent send-up of everything from organized religion to the White Man’s Burden, but wait until you see the work of choreographer Casey Nicholaw, who manages to make African “savage” and Mormon “civilized” both electrifying and hilarious on stage.

Book of Mormon TourIt’s unfair to give away plot points; just know that puppy-dog Mormon missionaries stationed in Africa are desperately trying to save poverty-ridden Ugandans mired in war and AIDS by converting them to Mormonism. The Broadway talent is spot-on: David Larsen plays the sweet-tongued, buttoned-down Elder Price; Cody Jamison Strand is Elder Cunningham, the über-nebbish sidekick with a heart of deceptive gold; and a vivacious yet naïve Denée Benton is the village leader’s daughter, Nabulungi. While the triple-threat ensemble soars, one does rise above the thundering herd: Pierce Cassidy as the flamboyant Elder McKinley. Yes, it’s the most featured role in the ensemble, but even when Cassidy is merely one of the many background dancers, it’s difficult to wrest one’s eyes from his ferociously energetic performance.

book of mormon-turn it offYes, raping babies, screwing toads, giving the middle finger to the lord above and—blasphemy alert—Starbuck’s coffee arriving in the bowels of hell next to Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Jimmy Cochran might offend. But will it offend faithful Mormons who might not appreciate the full-throttle parodying of their faith? I’m not so sure. This crowd-pleaser breaks every rule while serving the golden rule for musical comedy—it’s hilarious as hell—but it surprisingly manages to be touching as well. Perhaps the show gets to the gist of our commonality: In one way or another, we’ve all had a version of the Spooky Mormon Hell Dream.

Book of Mormon Tourphotos by Joan Marcus

The Book of Mormon
Segerstrom Center for the Arts
600 Town Center Dr. in Costa Mesa
scheduled to end on May 25, 2014
for tickets, call 714-556-2787
or visit
a pre-show lottery for $25 seats
occurs 2.5 hours prior to each performance

national tour scheduled to end in June, 2016
for cities and tickets, visit Book of Mormon

Leave a Comment