Nine-time Tony Award-winning for Best Musical, “The Book of Mormon” swept into Kansas City’s Music Hall to a capacity crowd for opening night, Feb. 25, and pushed the limits of many who had waited years for the mega-hit traveling national tour to land in town.
Absolutely sexually and verbally explicit, “The Book of Mormon” lampoons the followers of the Mormon church and the feet-on-the-street door knockers known to share their word and vision through personal contact via door-to-door crusades to save the wicked. The show’s opening number begins with Mormon missionaries awaiting their first overseas assignment to spread the Mormon philosophy throughout the world and baptize followers worldwide.
As the story unfolds, “The Book of Mormon” explains how Jesus Christ appeared for three days after his crucifixion in what is now upstate New York, gave testimony that was inscribed on a golden tablet to be buried and found two centuries later. The excavation of the tablet leads to massive distribution of the new-found text for The Bible, kind of a part-three, to make The Bible a trilogy.
“The Book of Mormon,” called the best musical of the century by The New York Times lived up to all the hype and brought the Kansas City audience to its feet as soon as the curtain call began. The foul-language and utterly sinful acts of sexual misconduct allowed the audience to laugh at the absurdity of the story and the unconventional dialogue of the characters. Written by the uncanny and liberal minded creators of South Park, the TV series from the 1990’s “The Book of Mormon” shocks with its harsh language and acidity toward the established church and its followers.
Trey Parker & Matt Stone wrote “The Book of Mormon” with the same sarcastic verve they used for the successful TV series, South Park, where children question life’s situations and spew profane words as freely as water flows over Niagara Falls. So, too, “The Book of Mormon” allows foul language and inappropriate sexual situations to run rampant throughout the show.
Fantastic, fabulous, splendid, pants-wettingly funny–all describe the performance from Feb. 25 in Kansas City. Audiences roared with laughter at each song, dance, and scene. The set was a masterpiece of intricate moving parts that allowed for scene changes that go almost unnoticed. The backdrops rise and fall with precision to help with the scene changes. The technical aspects of the show and the staging are phenomenal.
The lighting is superb and helps bring the audience’s focus on the action. The choreography is sharm, snappy, on-tempo, and in unison. A tap number by the men’s ensemble is jaw dropping and the on-stage costume change of the men in the number during a five-second blackout shocks and amazes theatergoers. Every aspect of the show from the sets, to costume, lights, sound, stage management, etc. are spot on and flashy.
Expect wonderful acting and characterization from the entirety of the cast. Not one missed beat in the musical dance numbers just makes the show flow so quickly and smoothly. But, it’s not just dancing and singing, The acting of the lead characters nails the character of walking missionaries in an uncivilized world of chaos.
Elder Price and Elder Cunningham travel to Uganda to spread the faith to the African nation ruled by a cruel military dictator who must remain nameless (because of his name). The missionaries need to sway the villagers to trust them and have faith in God to overthrow the dictator’s grip over them. Price and Cunningham face unexpected obstacles to get even one baptism in such a fear-laden and uneducated society, until Cunningham takes matters into his own hands and elicits change for the people.
Even though he’s never read the sacred text, he connives and conjure up images and promises no God would ever allow. Such is the premise of the story. While Cunningham creates his own version, his trusted partner on the trip adheres to strict Mormon guidelines and cannot fathom the success of his brother in faith.
Standout performances came for the two male leads of Billy Harrigan Tighe as Price and A. J. Holmes as Cunningham. Both gave wonderful funny performances. Of the two, Holmes stood out more because of the material. He’s more the comic sidekick in Act I and Price is more the straight man. Price has more of the vocal challenges of the show as the lead male singer. Together, they are a tag-team match as the show unfolds. Both are wonderfully talented and a joy to watch. Alongside them, Alexandra Ncube wowed the audience with her vocal prowess. She plays the love interest and the ingenue role. She’s a talent and her stage presence equals those of the leading men.
Corey Jones portrays the African war lord that can only be identified as General (because the rest of his name if not appropriate for media). His swagger keeps the focus on him, even though his time on stage is limited. He’s fearfully funny–in a twisted way. Josh Breckenridge gives a funny performance as the doctor. It’s his recurring line about having maggots in his scrotum audiences will remember. His delivery and buildup to that repeated line always generate laughs.
“The Book of Mormon” deserves the highest recommendations. It’s by far the funniest and most irreverent show to play Kansas City in the past few years. Back in the 1960s “Hair” pushed the boundaries. Ten years ago, “The Producers” captured the musical/comedy realm of theater. Now, “Book of Mormon” pushes the boundaries to extremes with off beat story, script, language, sexual misconduct, and sarcasm. The lampoon of the Mormon religion gives everyone a good laugh and possibly a new vision for that dreaded door knock from persons who ascribe to that faith.
If you liked South Park, if you follow Tony Award-winning shows, if you like Theater League offerings, if you have a vivid imagination, if you possess a sarcastic wit about yourself, if you like to laugh, if you like to experience your boundaries pushed, if you want to experience laughter about absurd situations, do not hesitate to secure seats to “The Book of Mormon.” It’s fantastic, fabulous, funny, bizarre, entertaining, over-the-top musical theater. Be prepared: it’s not for everyone–especially those who believe (as referenced in a signature song from the show).
According to online ticketing, some shows are sold out. “The Book of Mormon” opened last night, Feb. 25 and runs through March 8. Most shows show limited seats available. Prices range from $45 to $160. For tickets, check out the Theater League website or the ticketing box office.