Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cincinnati

The Book of Mormon
National Tour
Review by Scott Cain | Season Schedule

Sam Nackman and Sam McLellan
Photo by Julieta Cervantes
The Book of Mormon, the musical, is back in Cincinnati for the fourth time. This show is controversial for many people, but is also a fan favorite, as demonstrated by its 13-year run on Broadway that continues today. The show's touring production boasts a strong non-Equity cast, and this extremely witty, tuneful, and, yes, offensively funny show generates lots of laughs from audiences.

This musical tells of Elder Price, an eager, charismatic go-getter, and Elder Cunningham, a social misfit and compulsive liar, who are sent as Mormon missionaries to a small village in Uganda. The two young men struggle to share their faith with the local people, who are rightfully more concerned with surviving war, poverty, famine, and disease that plague their daily lives.

The book, music, and lyrics are by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of the "South Park" animated series, and Robert Lopez, one of the co-creators of Avenue Q and Frozen. The book and score both won Tony Awards, two of the nine it won in 2011, including Best Musical. As one might expect, the story and lyrics are full of very funny humor, wry wit, social commentary, and likeable characters. However, this is also in conjunction with what many will consider vulgar and obscene language, and crude humor situations. Likewise, the show's presentation of the characters' faith and belief in God could be offensive to religious people, though it does make sense in the context of the story. It parodies the Mormon religion specifically, but does so lovingly, mostly letting the specifics of the faith itself create the humor. The piece has a good heart and is ultimately about the importance of having faith, any faith, and the hope that comes with it. From a theatrical perspective, the book is solidly written, with steady doses of comedy and plot twists and turns, though the inclusion of a dream sequence set in hell (a topic the "South Park" authors visit frequency in the cartoon) seems unnecessary and weaker in quality.

The songs in The Book of Mormon are generally upbeat, tuneful, and well-crafted. "Hello" is a wonderful opening number, and songs including "Two by Two", "You and Me (but Mostly Me)", "Turn It Off" and "I Believe" are very clever and musically memorable. They spoof the overly optimistic outlook associated with Mormons while also celebrating them. Although the songs present certain faith themes in potentially irreverent fashion, they do so without any hint of mean-spiritedness. Several Broadway musicals, including Wicked and The Lion King, are parodied quite amusingly.

Sam McLellan humorously captures the self-centered and ultra-assured nature of Elder Price. Though his vocals are pinched at times, he is generally a fine singer and provides several nuanced acting choices. As Elder Cunningham, Sam Nackman hilariously embodies the needy, nerdy, and sloppy persona of Elder Cunningham, and is quite reminiscent of Josh Gad, who originated the role. He's a strong singer and brings a very funny physicality to the role as well. Keke Nesbitt is endearing and puts her vocal talents to great use as Nabulungi. Sean Casey Flanagan gets plenty of laughs as the suppressed gay Mormon missionary Elder McKinley. The large ensemble does very well as true triple threats. Trevor Dorner delightfully covers several key supporting characters, and LaMont J. Whitaker (Mafala Hatimbi) and Dewight Braxton Jr. (General) also impress in supporting roles.

The touring production is directed by Jennifer Werner, re-creating the work by the musical's initial creative team. Original directors Casey Nicholaw (Something Rotten!, Some Like It Hot) and Trey Parker created quick-paced and cleverly blocked staging with a joyful tone–all of which is in sharp contrast to the depressing setting of the story, keeping in line with the satirical nature of the piece. There are many instances of stage craft that are laugh-out-loud funny and ingenious. Nicholaw's original choreography is splendid, with several moments mirroring the exuberant moves (and sunny dispositions) of the Brady Bunch and The Osmonds. There are also several African tribal dances and a fierce tap-dance number. Mason Moss leads a fine sounding orchestra.

The set design by Scott Pask is unique and varied, and serves the show very well, with the African locales being especially noteworthy. Brian MacDevitt's lighting design includes many inventive effects and benefits the show greatly. The costumes by Ann Roth are apt to the setting and characters, and are imaginative when needed.

Theatregoers who are easily offended, especially by coarse language or the mocking of religion, will want to stay away from The Book of Mormon. However, for those not turned off by the language and themes, it's a very funny and well-crafted show. The first-rate songs, comedic story, and talented performers showcased in the current national tour are sure to entertain those who attend.

The Book of Mormon runs through February 25, 2024, at the Aronoff Center, 650 Walnut St., Cincinnati OH. For tickets and information, please call 513-621-2787 or visit For information on the tour, visit