By Christopher Heide
The Book of Mormon is, hands down, one of the best musicals I’ve ever seen. It’s a fresh, invigorating, modern show unlike most of the other productions to come out of Broadway. Written by the creators of South Park, Trey Parker & Matt Stone, The Book of Mormon is modern, offensive and downright hilarious. It’s a production filled with infectious songs, adult humor and wonderfully loveable characters. In other words, this show is musical theatre gold.
This titillating, twisted production tells the tale of two mormon missionaries who are sent to Uganda to teach the locals about the Mormon church. What ensues is a tale of humorous misunderstandings and tribulations. On a surface level, the show is filled with jokes about poop, AIDS and sex with frogs. Given that the show tonally connected with South Park, such developments are not much of a surprise. On a deeper level however, the show is filled with rich character development and a dozen memorable songs, both key elements in any winning musical. The brass humor works in The Book of Mormon, and helps to elevate the satirical nature of the plot. There is soulful depth to the jokes and subtle vulnerability in the singing. The show pointedly tears apart Mormonism, while somehow managing to not be too offensive. It’s masterfully executed.
A winning musical is nothing without pitch-perfect casting. A.J. Holmes and Billy Harrigan Tighe nail their roles as Elder Cunningham and Elder Price, respectively. For all intents and purpose, Tighe is essentially the lead of the how. Price is a golden boy, a pinnacle of Mormon excellence, gifted with model looks and a winning personality. Tighe makes the arrogant Price just relatable enough to make his fall from grace impacting and believable. His singing voice is good and Tighe squeezes every drop of humor he can out of the role.
It is Holmes, however, who truly steals the show as the socially awkward Cunningham. Holmes boasts an impressively strong singing voice and expert comedic timing. Not once during the entire run of the show does Holmes break character. In a cast of talented professionals, Holmes is the true star.
There is a reason The Book of Mormon is such a popular show. It's just that good. This tour-de-force is a smartly structured show that is just familiar enough to make musical theater veterans happy. It is doing for musical theater what Rent did in the 90’s. Its fresh, evocative, smart and groundbreaking. Because of the brilliance of “The Book of Mormon”, musical theater is now more accessible to non-regulars. Do yourself a favor and go see this show while you still can. You won't regret it.