BWW Reviews: Broadway Across America's THE BOOK OF MORMON at Capitol Theatre
Hello, Salt Lake City. "The Book of Mormon" in Sal Tlay Ka Siti is something incredible.
To be able to see the musical with fellow theatergoers that clearly understand the lifestyle being lampooned was an invigorating and wholly unique experience. Certainly audiences here will have the highest percentage of missionaries who have returned with honor after their own proselytizing, or at the least abundantly familiar the Elder Prices and Elder Cunninghams who have chimed neighborhood doorbells. That was evident with a few audience members wearing missionary name badges with their own names, and these photos are being proudly being displayed on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
The rousing cheers greeting the very first ding-dong were so deafening at an early performance that the familiar tone couldn't be heard. And hearty belly laughs follow each new line.
Billy Harrigan Tighe was empowered by the receptive audience to give a vibrant performance in the lead role of Elder Price who has raspberry-pie wholesome eagerness. He is gosh-darn tremendous. "I Believe" is sung with fervor and tremendous zest. A.J. Holmes' portrayal of Elder Cunningham wasn't completely successful. His techno-nerd take on the character was at odds with the bloated, hyper character that has been more widely viewed. Albeit a surprising direction to take Elder Cunningham, Holmes works to become engaging.
As Nabulungi (or Neosporin, Neutrogena, Necrophilia, etc., as she is sorely mispronounced), Alexandra Ncube is sweet and sings the hometown anthem with abundant enthusiasm. Stanley Wayne Mathis makes Mafala Hatimbi authoritative yet tender.
The leads are strongly supported by an effervescent ensemble. The show's two showpieces songs, "Turn It Off" and "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream," reach heavenly heights. There's also "Hasa Diga Eebowai" - sung in the style of "Hakuna Matata" from "The Lion King," though the lyrics certainly don't mean "Don't Worry" - that is delivered with rich comic appeal.
The cast is strong in this tour version. Codirector Casey Nicholaw's absurdly witty choreography is precise and clean. But the true star remains the humor and musical theater homages written into the "Book of Mormon" musical by its authors. Trey Parker and Matt Stone are the masterminds, and the collaboration with Robert Lopez brought the concept to musical life. Yes, the show is profane, crude and boundary-pushing. Parker and Stone were freed of any censorship in their foray away from "South Park." It's to be remembered other weighty topics (racial stereotyping, the AIDS epidemic and female circumcision among them) are also treated satirically.
But the hilarious lampoon is mixed with a heaping green Jell-O serving of love and admiration. While the fervently faithful in pious pews can find much to be offended in the musical, LDS Church officials have come to terms with the show's success - and in fact financially support it by taking out sequential full-page ads in playbills at each production across the country. The current version of the ads are now headlined "I've Read the Book." And now Sal Tlay Ka Siti residents can leap for joy like the posters showing Elder Price's now iconic portrait as they proclaim "I've Seen the Musical." They also shout out "And thanks for bringing it to town!"