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updated: 7/15/2016 2:28 PM

'Book of Mormon' even better second time around

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  • Video: ShortAndSweet

Provided by Broadway in Chicago; Video Production by Tribeca Flashpoint College

Even if you've seen the wildly popular "The Book of Mormon" before, it's worth it to check out the current Broadway in Chicago production at PrivateBank Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St., Chicago.

"I loved it even more the second time," said guest critic Robin Leckinger of Aurora. "The first time I saw it, I was drawn in by the music, the choreography and the beautiful harmonies of the characters," she explained, adding that some of the show's irreverent dialogue caught her by surprise the first time around. "The second time, I was past that ... and I was really able to just sit back and laugh and enjoy it."

"The Book of Mormon" skewers that religion, as well as religion in general, as it follows to newly minted missionaries as they travel to war-torn Uganda to spread their good news. Written by the creators of "South Park," the show leaves no taboo topic unturned.

Leckinger said the significant messages the show delivers is something the audience can take home with them. "They took some really tough issues and put them right on the table but put them in a context that I think everyone could consume and enjoy, even, thinking about and talking about."

By Diana Martinez

The nine-time Tony Award Winning The Book of Mormon is back in Chicago at The PrivateBank Theatre and if you think you've "been there done that" -- think again. I saw the show when it first opened and really enjoyed it, but this time I loved it. The fresh interpretation and performance of Cody Jamison Strand as the underdog evangelist in training, Elder Cunningham, kept us laughing all night long. Traditionally a nerdy-type character actor plays the role, but he brings more to the part with quirky and physical choices, a voice that screeches when he's nervous and an authenticity of really trying to be liked that makes the audience fall in love and root for him.

The story is based on the Mormon practice that after male teens turn 18 they go to Missionary school to prepare for two years of service as missionaries to promote good moral lifestyles. Upon graduation they are assigned a partner and a country to spread the word of Jesus Christ. Elder Kevin Price is the leader of the Mormon missionaries and prays for an assignment in Orlando, Florida, but is crushed when he is sent to Uganda with the "last guy picked on a team" partner, Elder Cunningham. With a book and lyrics by the creators of South Park, the games begin when they are sent to work in a society plagued by AIDS, poverty, violence and loads of cynicism. They realize a successful mission may not be as easy as they expected and the story unfolds.

From the first few notes you realize this show is as polished and precise as it gets and the choreography is a cacophony of jazz-hand theme park moves on steroids. As for the vocal power and precision of this ensemble, it would make the Mormon Tabernacle Choir envious. The magic of this show is in its pace and presentation, but the brilliance is in the writing by the creators of "South Park," Trey Parker and Matt Stone, along with Robert Lopez, who teach us more through clever subtext on current social issues and the messages that layer in. It's truly about acceptance, tolerance, understanding and love. And isn't that what religion is supposed to be all about?

The show is playing at The PrivateBank Theatre through Aug. 14 and runs about 2 hours and 30 minutes with an intermission This is a great show to see with friends or a fun date night show -- but it's definitely not for the little ones. It features adult language and themes, which create lots of laughs.

On behalf of the Daily Herald and Broadway In Chicago, I'm Diana Martinez and I look forward to seeing you at the theater. Thanks for reading!

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