Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Book of Mormon

Billy Harrigan Tighe performs in the Broadway
Sacramento presentation of “The Book of Mormon”
at the Sacramento Community Center Theater
through March 20.
Photo by Johan Persson.
When word got out that someone was writing a musical comedy called “The Book of Mormon,” people in the Mormon church went berserk. There were angry protests about the denigration of their religion, pickets were going to be at the theater on opening night.

But then they invited some of the Mormon elite to see the show and they realized that it did not really make fun of their beliefs, though it did poke fun at things that arise out of those beliefs. The fact that both the programs for the recent San Francisco production and the current production running at the California Musical Theatre contain full-page ads paid for by the Mormon church is a good indication of how the tide has turned.

And the fact that the run of “The Book of Mormon” is nearly sold out in the 3,000-seat Community Center is another indication of how the country has fallen in love with this show. In fact, you probably will go home after the show realizing that Mormons are very nice people and that you would like to get to know some of them.

But that’s not the say the show isn’t funny or irreverent and downright vulgar in spots. I can say that the song “Hasa Diga Eebowai” is the one of the funniest songs in the show, but if I were to translate the title, it could not be printed in this newspaper, though oddly enough it is crucial to the progression of the story.

The story starts on the day a group of young Mormon missionaries complete their education and get ready to find out their assignments for the next two years — the famous “mission.” With whom will they be teamed and where will they go?

As they wait for their assignments, they sing the song “Hello!” which is a salute to all those young Mormons who ring your doorbells and try to give you information about their book.

“Hello, my name is Elder Price
And I would like to share with you
The most amazing book
It has so many awesome parts
You simply won’t believe
How much this book can change your life …”

These are young idealists, convinced they will change the world, and none more passionate than Elder Price (Billy Harrigan Tighe), who may be the holiest, most dedicated of them all. He has prayed to God that he will be sent on his mission to his favorite place in the world — Orlando.

It is a shock, then, when he is paired with Elder Cunningham (A.J. Holmes), whom everyone considers a flake and nobody seems to like very much. The two of them will be setting off for Uganda.

They encounter a lot of friendly people suffering from all sorts of problems, from maggot infections to AIDS to dealings with the War Lord called “General” in the program (Corey Jones) because his full name can’t be printed in a family publication!

But still these Ugandans are happy and accepting of their lives and have no interest in hearing about some new religion that might incite the anger of the General.

Mafala Hatimbi (Stanley Wayne Mathis) is their tour guide and is father to Nabulungi (Alexandra Ncube), whose passion and assistance is crucial to the missionaries.

The story and energetic music by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone (yes, the writers of “South Park”) will set your toes to tapping and you’ll find yourself laughing at outrageous lyrics. The dance numbers (choreography by Casey Nicholaw) are amazing. Each number is a show-stopper, as are the more tender moments such as the haunting “Sal Tlay Ka Siti,” sung by Nabulungi about “the most perfect place on Earth.”
The show is howlingly funny. And as highly irreverent as it is — poking fun at Mormon dogma all over the place — at the end it is actually spiritually uplifting with the message that love is the answer.

This is definitely a not-to-be-missed show, though it may be difficult to impossible to get tickets at this late date.

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