What a difference a decade and a pandemic makes. Imagine the humor of “South Park” put to Broadway-style musical proportions. That’s what “The Book of Mormon” gave us twelve years ago and audiences ate it up. Does it still work? Well, yes and no.
The lampoon of missionaries that feel the need to create a cookie-cutter world in their own image still resonates. The results do not always go as planned when you attempt to transplant a religion from one culture into another as young American Mormons find out when they are sent to Uganda.
The portrayal of Africa and of Africans, however, has not aged well. There are stereotypes galore from everyone having AIDS to raping babies and female genital mutilation. Nor have the scatological jokes and blasphemous song-and-dance routines. Shock and awe and performer fearlessness originally kept them afloat but they’re familiar and tedious now, especially performed by a mostly non-energetic, non-Equity touring cast.
Many of the jokes and references that were topical in 2011 have not worn well. Johnny Cochran? Jeffrey Dahmer? Mandela was alive at that point but has been gone a decade. “Tomorrow is a Latter Day” was a wonderful sendup of “Rent,” a show that still seemed contemporary then, but which now might as well be “Bells Are Ringing.”
A theme that does work well is the coming-of-age aspect and the buddy story, one overconfident, the other insecure and both making a journey together where each learns from the best of the other.
“The Book of Mormon” at Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 West Randolph, broadwayinchicago.com. Through April 16.