The Book of Mormon (Ghostlight Records)
This original cast recording induces grins, starting with its opening number: "Hello," a round for a group of young Mormons as they practice their door-to-door spiel that reaches absurd levels of hilarity. Smiles, laughs, giggles, and even chortles are the order of the day for the remaining 15 tracks of the recording of this pointedly irreverent Tony Award-nominated tuner.
Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone have crafted a score that is full of Broadway razzmatazz mixed with pop rhythms and sounds, which are remarkably enhanced by Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus' sparkling and often witty orchestrations. And even without the intelligently comic -- and sometimes just purposely stupid-funny -- lyrics, this recording would prove infinitely appealing.
The creators' work is served up with gusto by the cast, starting with Andrew Rannells' appropriately shallow and sunny (even on disc) turn as Elder Price, the missionary who dreams of serving in Orlando, but finds himself instead in Uganda. His impressive performance is matched by Rory O'Malley's gleeful turn as Elder McKinley, who serves up "Turn It Off," a song about repressing "sinful" feelings, with just the right mix of winking knowledge and blissful innocence, and by Nikki M. James, who thoroughly charms with "Sal Tlay Ka Siti," in which her Ugandan character dreams of the perfect life she might have in the Utah oasis described by the missionaries.
But the performance that steals the show -- both onstage and on the recording -- comes from Josh Gad as Elder Cunningham, the crass, ineffectual, and dim missionary paired with Price. Gad's squawky vocals have a keen sense of musicality about them, and as his character grows during the course of his time in Uganda, his singing takes on surprising and affecting assurance.
Listeners who download the album will find plenty to enjoy in the accompanying booklet: from a copious number of full color photos (including some candid backstage shots) to an erudite note on the musical from Frank Rich as well as synopsis and lyrics. And anyone who buys the disc itself will find that the book and disc are packaged not in a plastic jewel case, but a four-fold cardboard case: an appropriately luxe treatment for this must-have recording.