“The Book of Mormon” – Broadway Across America – Arizona – ASU Gammage

This review aired on KBAQ October 26, 2015


Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

In 2011, “The Book of Mormon” opened as Broadway’s biggest musical hit in years.  It’s a fast and funny extravaganza with a catchy score plus an abundance of clever humor that keeps audiences happily entertained. It takes pointed jabs and delivers pungent barbs at the Mormon Church and its rigorous dogma, zealous rules, lifestyle directives, and dictatorial doctrines.

The show has finally arrived locally at ASU Gammage where the tour plays until November 8 in an already sold-out engagement that should have played longer to accommodate local ticket demand.

What has never been explained is why it took this triumphant show so long to play here.  ASU Gammage boasts that Phoenix has become a significant market for touring Broadway musicals and audiences here regularly see Broadway shows quickly.  It has been speculated by many that local opposition to the show’s irreverent portrayal of the Mormon Church kept the tour from stopping here even though two national American tours had played many smaller American markets including Salt Lake City, home of the Mormon Church.

The musical is marvelously funny with laugh-a-minute dialogue and a clever score expertly crafted by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of “South Park” fame, plus Robert Lopez who created “Avenue Q.”  And yes, the show points out Mormon foibles and hypocrisy but what institution isn’t subject to humorous mockery?  While the show jabs and barbs its subject, it is never mean. The show’s conclusion tells audiences that every religion serves a valid purpose for its followers.  Most of the show’s damning criticism comes from doubters who have never seen or enjoyed the show’s vibrantly funny theatricality.

The story traces two devout Mormon prophets, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, who fly to Africa on their appointed mission.  They ingratiate themselves and their religion into the initially doubting people.  The musical deals with two divergent cultures that conquer their differences.

Wildly energetic staging plus clever dances by Casey Nicholaw and author Parker delivers exuberance so the show comes to a comically zinging life.  Simple sets swirl into place so audiences always know where every funny moment occurs.  Bold costumes add further levity.

Most impressive is a stellar cast that duplicates the spirited energy that pervaded the show’s original Broadway production.  Stalwart Elder Price, the more regimented of the two missionaries, is played with blind devotion by Billy Harrigan Tighe, while his blustery and bumbling sidekick, Elder Cunningham, is played with zany vaudevillian shtick by A. J. Holmes.  Able support comes from Alexandra Ncube as an African believer, Stanley Wayne Mathis as a bossy local general, Brian Beach as Elder McKinley, another missionary, and Ron Bohmer who plays multiple roles with distinction.

“The Book of Mormon” is one of the best Broadway tours to play locally in a long time.  For tickets, call the Ticketmaster box office at 800-982-2787 or order tickets online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade: A