Thursday, March 20, 2014


When the doorbell rings, you might expect it to be the Avon lady, the Fuller Brush man or a Girl Scout selling Thin Mint cookies.  But don't forget to include that persistent evangelical sect that offers you salvation and a glimpse of paradise.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints actively trains missionaries to travel all over the world, including your neighborhood, to introduce you to the word of God in their unique scripture known as The Book of Mormon.

In 1830 in Palmyra, New York, Joseph Smith, only 21 years of age, was guided by the angel Moroni to discover ancient plates of gold inscribed with an unfamiliar language.  God is said to have given Smith the gift to translate the ancient words and soon 5000 books were published.  This book became the foundation for the Mormon Church and its journey from Smith to Brigham Young to Salt Lake City, Utah.  This voyage is chronicled, with a lot of literary license, bizarre humor and blashemy, in the religiously irreverent and gloriously irreligious musical comedy penned by the creators of South Park, the animated cartoon on television, by Trey Parker (co-director, book, music, lyrics), Robert Lopez (book, music, lyrics) and Matt Stone (book, music, lyrics).  "The Book of Mormon" will reveal all to the uninitiated at Hartford's Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts until Sunday, March 30.

Satire screams through every clever verse as two naive and young believers, missionaries, are sent directly from Utah to Uganda, without passing go and collecting $200 in donations or stopping for a ride at Disney Orlando for a ride on Dumbo.  Elder Price (Mark Evans) and Elder Cunningham (Christopher John O'Neill) after three months of instruction at Missionary Training School are ill-equipped for their virgin assignment.  Although Elder Price is self-assured and convinced of his calling, his co-hort Cunningham suffers from low self-esteem and a perpetual case of lying.  The fact that he hasn't bothered to read "the book" doesn't help his pitch for conversion.

Their arrival in the African village begins with their luggage being stolen and rapidly goes down hill from there.  The villagers they meet are worried about starvation and AIDS and a menacing war lord (Corey Jones) and could care less about religion.  One who does listen, a lovely young innocent girl named Nabulungi (Alexandra Ncube), the daughter of the chief (Stanley Wayne Mathis), pursues the hope of a better life the proselytizers are offering.

While the existing Mormon team, led by Elder McKinley (Grey Henson) have previously had no success with conversions, the most unlikely one finds miraculous results.  Musical number like "Hello," "Turn It Off," "I  Am Here For You," "Man Up" and "I Am Africa" are engagingly clever.  The cast puts themselves joyfully into the fray, becoming fully immersed in the music, comedy and story with gleeful abandon. All blue-haired grandmothers are advised to beware.

For tickets ($43-160), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at  Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Answer your doorbell when the Mormon missionaries come to call and discover for yourself if silliness and salvation are right for you.

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