The satire doesn't stop with religion; given the choreography (Casey Nicholaw), and the sameness of the songs, and the extravaganza production numbers - a dream of a huge red Hell, for instance - it is also poking fun at Big Broadway Shows, while being one. Nice work if you can get it, and they got it.
Just about anybody with a front door will recognize the scene of the first song as the proselytizers ring doorbells and sing: "Hello, hello." There they are, all white, all male, all young, all in white shirts and black pants and black ties, short of hair and clear of eye. Their group song, "Turn It Off," is a hymn to repression, just as their song "We Are Africa" is a hymn to delusion ( The Lion King has much to answer for).
When the most successful of the group of young men, Elder Price (the excellent KJ Hippensteel), is paired with the ne'er-do-well Elder Cunningham (the endearing Christopher John O'Neill), they are sent to Uganda to convert the "natives." The missionaries already there (Grey Henson is a standout) have failed to make any impression on the locals. There is, of course, a beautiful maiden (the lovely Alexandra Ncube), a ruthless warlord, and a bunch of impoverished, browbeaten villagers.
Well, one thing leads to another: Elder Cunningham baptizes everybody, the missionaries discover the value of imagination, and everybody learns that much theology is metaphor.
The Book of Mormon
Through Sept. 14 at the Forrest Theatre, 1114 Walnut St. Tickets $67-$162. Information: www.forrest-theatre.com, 1-800-447-7400.