Theatre review of Broadway Across Canada's The Book of Mormon March 31 - April 5, 2015 at Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary, AB

Book of Mormon review - Vince Kanasoot
Book of Mormon review - Vince Kanasoot

The Book of Mormon combines South Park humour with good old-fashioned American musical theatre.

The next time a Mormon missionary rings my doorbell and says, “hello” I’m keeping my fingers crossed he will break out into a show tune, joined by a chorus of other adorable missionaries in sweet harmony. Because that’s exactly what happens in the hit Tony award-winning Broadway musical, The Book of Mormon, which recently delighted Calgary audiences as part of Broadway Across Canada’s current tour.

The Book of Mormon, written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and Avenue Q co-creator Robert Lopez, is a Tony award winning musical parody about two young Mormon missionaries, Elder Kevin Price (Billy Harrigan Tighe) and Elder Arnold Cunningham (A.J. Holmes) who are sent by the Church of Latter-Day Saints on a mission to Uganda to convert the local people to the Mormon religion.

The Book of Mormon is a hilarious musical theatre parody that follows Mormon missionaries in their quest to convert Ugandans.
The Book of Mormon is a hilarious musical theatre parody that follows Mormon missionaries in their quest to convert Ugandans.

Throw in a ruthless Ugandan warlord, a community of Ugandans who are more concerned with issues such as poverty, death and AIDS, and a chorus of tap dancing Mormon missionaries, and our two lead characters are swept away into the adventure of their lives.

Along the way, they meet a sweet young Uganda girl, Nabulungi (Alexandra Ncube) whose yearning to learn more about the world opens a door of opportunity for the missionaries to introduce the Mormon religion to the Ugandans. However, the fact that Cunningham hasn’t actually read the Book of Mormon results in him teaching the local community by hashing whatever he can pull together as well as throwing in science fiction and fantasy characters such as hobbits, Yoda and Darth Vader.

Elder Cunningham (A.J. Holmes) attempts to teach the Book of Mormon to the local Ugandan community, even though he's never actually read the whole thing. Photo credit: Joan Marcus, Calgary Herald.
Elder Cunningham (A.J. Holmes) attempts to teach the Book of Mormon to the local Ugandan community, even though he's never actually read the whole thing. Photo credit: Joan Marcus, Calgary Herald.

This absurdly satirical show is filled to the brim with swears and obscenities of every nature, and does not fail to insult pretty much everyone…. and that’s what makes the show so much fun! Many people love The Book of Mormon because of this. However, underneath the humour, I found the story really sweet. For example, Cunningham starts off as an unconfident underachiever forced to accept the role of wingman to bright, rising Mormon star, Price. However, throughout the show, it was really nice to see Cunningham gain confidence and develop, and find his independence.

In the role of Price, Billy Harringan Tighe is excellent! While his character says and does things that makes him come across as arrogant and self-centred, Tighe is able to bring a layer of likeable naivety and innocence that’s forgiving to his character. Tighe is an amazing singer…and it’s clear he’s also an excellent dancer! There were times during the show where he would dashingly break out a switch split jump or a triple pirouette with charm and polish.

The show's stars Billy Harringan Tighe (left in the far left photo) and A.J. Holmes (right in the far left photo), in their first and last performances together in "The Book of Mormon". Photo credit: theoriginoffandom.tumblr.com
The show's stars Billy Harringan Tighe (left in the far left photo) and A.J. Holmes (right in the far left photo), in their first and last performances together in "The Book of Mormon". Photo credit: theoriginoffandom.tumblr.com

As Cunningham, A.J. Holmes is adorable! His unrefined and sometimes dim-witted portrayal of Cunningham is very cute. Additionally, he masterfully develops Cunningham’s character from a sad underdog to a…ummm…unrefined, slightly dim-witted but confident leader.

One of the highlights of this fine production is Alexandra Ncube's performance as Nabulungi. Her presence on stage is delightfully refreshing and her voice is absolutely stunning. While hilarious, her rendition of “Sa Tley Ka Siti”, is also extremely poignant and touching. Kudos also to Brian Beach as Elder McKinley, whose fierce tap dancing and wonderful comic timing helped make the show such a treat to watch.

Alexandra Ncube's performance as Nabulungi is stunning. Photo credit: Joan Marcus, Calgary Herald.
Alexandra Ncube's performance as Nabulungi is stunning. Photo credit: Joan Marcus, Calgary Herald.

What makes The Book of Mormon such a unique and special piece of theatre is its ability to combine contemporary humour with good old-fashioned American musical theatre. Helped out by Casey Nicholaw’s genius choreography with throwback references to musicals like Lion King, La Cage Aux Folles, 42nd Street and The Drowsy Chaperone, The Book of Mormon’s use of classic Broadway-style choreography, music and plot structure packages this absurdly entertaining parody into a true musical theatre win!

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Don't forget to check out Broadway Across Canada's next production to hit Calgary, Disney's The Lion King! 

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