The Denver Post

“Book of Mormon” is a guilty pleasure

- By Barbara Ellis

“The Book of Mormon” ★★★¼

Nick Turner of Denver has seen “The Book of Mormon” 10 times.

Nine of the performanc­es were in Denver; the other was during a business trip to Toronto. (The first national tour of “Mormon” launched in Denver in 2012; it returned in 2013 and 2015 — each time to sold-out crowds.)

Thursday night’s performanc­e at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House at the Denver Center was the one that put Turner into double digits.

“I grew up around the Mormon culture,” Turner said. “My house was near the Village of Four Lakes in Centennial, where the Mormon temple is. So I understand all the subtleties of the show.”

But 10 times?

“Sure; I get new perspectiv­es

EEeach time. The first time you see it it’s this big, spectacula­r show. After that, there’s always something new.”

He added, “I only see the edgy shows multiple times.”

Certainly, “The Book of Mormon” qualifies on that count.

The musical — written by Colorado’s own Trey Parker and Matt Stone of “South Park” fame, along with songwriter Robert Lopez — is about a pair of wide-eyed Mormon teenagers heading out into the world on their twoyear mission to spread the word of God, as received by the “all-American prophet,” Joseph Smith. Elder Kevin Price dreams of Orlando (“Sea World and Disney and putt-putt golfing”) but is instead sent to Uganda with Elder Arnold Cunningham, an awkward loner who has trouble telling the truth.

They land in an African village beset by warlords, famine and AIDS. Be warned: “Mormon” is irreverent, racist, raunchy and profane, and insults just about everyone.

You may be ashamed of how much you enjoyed it, but that’s forgivable. (Leave the younger kids at home for this show, folks.)

And who among us didn’t wake up this morning singing, “Hello! My name is Elder Price. Da-da da-dadadadada­dada da-da-da”?

This cast is spectacula­r across the board: Kevin Clay as Elder Price has a commanding presence and stellar comedic timing; Ron Bohmer juggles four roles with elan; Kayla Pecchioni’s gorgeous pipes made me finally appreciate Nabalungi’s solo “Sal Tlay Ka Siti”; and the tireless ensemble impressed in every number.

But above all, I couldn’t take my eyes off of Conner Peirson, who plays Elder Cunningham. Kudos to “Mormon’s” casting director for finding this gem: Peirson is adorable, endearing, believable and charming. His dancing is wildly fun and energetic; his hurt is palpable; his slapstick spot-on; his voice strong despite the intentiona­l cracks. Cunningham’s numbers with Nabalungi (Hockaloogi­e? Nabisco? Neutrogena? Nicki Minaj?) are tender and sweet.

(Fun fact: Ben Platt, of “Dear Evan Hansen” renown, played Elder Cunningham in a 2012 national tour of “The Book of Mormon,” and reprised that role on Broadway in 2014.)

For this run, The Denver Center is offering a ticket lottery. Entries will be accepted at The Ellie. Here’s how it works, accodring to a press release: Starting 2½ hours before each performanc­e, people who want tickets will print their names and the number of tickets (1 or 2) they wish to purchase on a card. Two hours before curtain, names will be drawn at random for a limited number of $25 tickets. Winners must be present for the drawing and show valid ID. Limit one entry per person and two tickets per winner. Tickets are subject to availabili­ty.

In fact, Nick Turner tried to get a ticket in the lottery but failed, so paid full price for his seat six rows back.

So, where did this show rate compared to all 10 versions Turner has seen?

“Oh,” he said, “‘Book of Mormon’ is always a 10.”

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