“The Book of Mormon” is politically incorrect in the most beautiful way. But what else would one expect from a show crafted by the creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone?
In collaboration with Robert Lopez, known for penning Avenue Q and songs in the Disney phenomenon, Frozen, the comedic pair has come up with something truly provocative and mind-bending.
Under a veil of ridiculousness is intelligent, witty writing portrayed wonderfully by an award-winning cast running this week at the Hult Center for Performing Arts in Eugene, Oregon.
Elder Price, played by Billy Harrigan Tighe, is an ignorantly egotistical young man with a strange obsession with Orlando, Florida, who gets sent to Uganda for his mission with the adorably awkward companion, Elder Cunningham (A.J. Holmes). This village is certainly nothing like Orlando, and the pair gets their bags stolen by a warlord upon arrival. “General Butt-Fucking Naked” continues to cause problems in his quest to forcibly circumcise every woman in the village.
Despite initial friction between their characters over the course of the play, the chemistry between Tighe and Holmes is undeniable: the energy they bring to the stage carries the story of their bizarre adventures in this small African village to new heights. Their innocence and commitment to their cause softens the sharp edge of the musical.
While the leads Elder Price (Tighe), Elder Cunningham (Holmes) and the beautiful female lead Nabulungi, portrayed by Alexandra Ncube, give stunning performances with just the right mixture of comedy and sincerity, the ensemble cast shines as bright as the brilliant white starched shirts of the Missionaries.
Musical numbers like “Hello!”, the opening song, and “Hasa Diga Eebowai” (Translation: “Fuck you, God”) directly present, and in a way, combat stereotypes of Mormonism and life in Africa by singing about issues such as difficulties gathering converts, AIDS, and domestic abuse.
The play gains more traction in its second Act when Elder Price struggles with his decision to desert his mission in Uganda in favor of another location. Elder Price’s nightmare sequence. which is scored by the song, “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream”, features evil historical figures such as Genghis Khan and Hitler, as well as a couple of Starbucks cups, poking fun at the fact that Mormons aren’t allowed to drink caffeine.
The young man ultimately decides to fulfill his duties in Uganda, but Elder Price is thrown when he learns that his old companion, Elder Cunningham, is favored by the locals and that they are to join the church. I won’t spoil the end of the show, which features a shocking rendition of the story of Joseph Smith, except to say that the two become unlikely friends united by their belief in the Heavenly Father and the desire to do good in the world.
“The Book of Mormon” excites, offends, and leaves your cheeks hurting from laughter. It flies by and leaves you begging for more. If you’re looking for a thrill, you’ll find it in Downtown Eugene at “God’s favorite musical.”
“The Book of Mormon” runs at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts in Eugene until February 7th. You can purchase tickets here.