“The Book of Mormon” is a blasphemous blast

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It’s a certainty that the LDS church elders in Salt Lake City never expected that a 2011 musical called “The Book of Mormon” would become a Broadway hit and take home nine Tony Awards including “Best Musical.”

It’s also a certainty that they never expected it to be a profane and sacrilegious satire that ridicules their faith, mercilessly poking fun at their most sacred and enshrined beliefs.

Oh well, that’s showbiz!

Broadway Across America has finally brought the touring company to Kansas City’s Music Hall and the production is an unholy riot.

With book, music and lyrics by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (TV’s “South Park”) and Robert Lopez (“Avenue Q”), “The Book of Mormon” tells the irreverent story of two naive LDS missionaries who are sent to Uganda to convert the native people. Naturally, things don’t go too smoothly.

Billy Harrigan Tighe plays Elder Price, a gung ho lad who fully expects his Heavenly Father to bless his proselytizing efforts, even though he’d rather have been assigned to his favorite city, Orlando, Florida. A. J. Holmes is his missionary companion, Elder Cunningham, a socially awkward nerd who has problems telling the truth. These wide-eyed fellows get more than they bargained for when they encounter the crushing poverty and repressive conditions the local people face.

Parker, Stone and Lopez use this setup to stage eighteen irreverent and highly entertaining musical numbers that simultaneously celebrate and lampoon Broadway musicals while aiming satiric barbs at faith and fealty.

Tighe and Holmes bring a lot of energy and vocal dexterity to their roles, as does the gifted ensemble. Alexandra Ncube gives a warm performance as Nabulungi, their first convert.

Thanks to the snappy direction by Parker and choreographer Casey Nicholaw, the show moves like lightning, seeming far shorter than its two-hour and thirty-minute running time.

While it’s hardly the Second Coming,  the unapologetically irreverent “The Book of Mormon” is the very definition of a guilty pleasure.

PS: The LDS Church has taken out three full-page ads in the show’s program stating, “The book is always better.” Perhaps the elders will have the last laugh after all.

“The Book of Mormon” runs through March 8th at the Music Hall, 301 West 13th Street, Kansas City, MO. Ticket information is available at 800-745-300 or by visiting http://www.ticketmaster.com.


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