When even the very folks being satirized, in this case The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly known as The Mormon Church) decide to advertise in the program of the raunchily irreverent yet sweet-natured, Tony award-winning, Broadway musical The Book of Mormon, you know that show is an unstoppable force or farce of nature. The national tour cast and production at the Paramount Theatre are as good, and perhaps in some ways better, than when it had a sold out run here a few years ago. I know that I enjoyed it even more, and would consider revisiting the show again in the future.
South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, joined by Avenue Q co-creator Robert Lopez, crafted the hilarious, bawdy book, music, and lyrics to this tale of young missionaries of the church embarking to various soul saving sights across the world. One of the two protagonists, Elder Price (Billy Harrigan Tighe looking for all the world like Robert Redford in his twenties), is hoping for Orlando, but he and his schlubby cohort Elder Cunningham (A.J. Holmes) draw the short straw and are sent to Uganda. The odd couple arrive in the poorest of poor, AIDS ridden, terrorist-challenged Ugandan villages, and are housed with a flock of other young Mormon brethren.
Cunningham worships Price, who he thinks is his first-ever best friend, while Price is focused on being the Super Mormon his family and church have always encouraged him to believe he is. Aided by a winsome, idealistic Ugandan miss named Nabulungi (Alexandra Ncube) they can’t seem to win over the villagers, but when Price and Cunningham reach a parting of the ways, Cunningham adopts unorthodox methods and revisionist storytelling from The Book of Mormon to rally them.
Co-Author Trey Parker also co-directed this affable, laugh-ridden show with co-director Casey Nicholaw, and they make sure the action, energy, and exuberance of their cast never flags or falters. The score is loaded with funny, satirical lyrics and music that you can actually hum along with. Kicking off with Hello, a gangbusters opening number that encapsulates every visitation from a pair of Mormons you’ve ever had ring your doorbell, the hits keep on coming, rendered by a splendid company.
Tighe’s Elder Price is ideal casting for the role, with exactly the All-American good looks, powerful voice, and the ability to show the chinks behind the character’s armor. Holmes hits a home-run with his take on Elder Cunningham, making him just cuddly enough yet showing how utterly annoying he can be. He never over plays the role, yet mines all the inherent comedy he can from it. The duo serve comic gold on Two by Two and You and Me (But Mostly Me), and charm with I Am Here For You. Each gets a chance to take center stage; Holmes with Man Up and I Am Africa, and Tighe in the showpiece Scary Mormon Hell Dream and the musically rapturous and lyrically hysterical I Believe.
Ms. Ncube is pitch perfect as Nabulungi, and with a clear, rapturous voice steals the show with her faux Disney princess solo where she dreams of the magic she has been lead to believe awaits in Sal Tlay Ka Siti (AKA Salt Lake). As the spokesman for the other Mormon’s in Uganda, Brian Beach puts the C in campy, and scores big-time with Turn It Off. Stanley Wayne Mathis is comedically regal as Nabulungi’s Father and makes his big moment count in Hasa Diga Eebowai. The supporting cast, lead by veteran Ron Bohmer, and the ensemble are tireless, sharp, and total triple threats, as this type of show demands.
As you might expect, the show looks as good as it plays with such veteran top-notch talents as Scott Pask (set designer), Ann Roth (costume designer), and Brian MacDevitt (lighting designer) on-board. I have gone out of my way to omit spoilers for those not yet indoctrinated.
The Book of Mormon is not meant for the easily offended or The Sound of Music crowd, but any open-minded audience member over the age of 16 should have a real hell of a good time (and then go home and MAYBE have a spooky, insert denomination, hell dream).
The Book of Mormon runs through runs through January 10, 2016 at The Paramount Theatre, 9th and Pine in Downtown Seattle. There is ticket lottery two and a half hours before each show, and limited seats are being released through the Paramount box-office. For more information go to stgpresents.org or contact Seattle Theatre Group at 877-STG-4TIX (877-784-4849).