Review: ‘Book of Mormon’ irreverent and terrifically entertaining

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The national tour of the Tony Award-winning musical “The Book of Mormon” continues at the Peace Center through Sunday. Photo by Julieta Cervantes

Hugely irreverent and terrifically entertaining, “The Book of Mormon” roared back into the Peace Center this week.

The riotous national tour of the Tony Award-winning show spotlights a dynamite cast. The show’s score, meanwhile, remains irresistible, with its mix of appealing ballads and rafter-shaking showstoppers.

But be forewarned: This scathing satire, with its strong language, will doubtless offend some sensibilities. “The Book of Mormon” was written by the creators of “South Park” – Matt Stone and Trey Parker – along with “Avenue Q” and “Frozen” songwriter Robert Lopez.

“South Park” is a good point of reference: “The Book of Mormon” features some of the same scatological humor and exuberant bawdiness.

Conner Peirson is sublimely comical as the socially awkward Elder Cunningham in “The Book of Mormon.” The national tour of the Tony Award-winning musical continues at the Peace Center through Sunday. Photo by Julieta Cervantes

Need we mention that the musical is for mature audiences only?

The story centers on an unlikely pair of Mormon missionaries, the narcissistic Elder Kevin Price and the nerdy Elder Arnold Cunningham, who journey to a remote village in poverty-stricken Uganda, where a brutal warlord is threatening the local population.

Naïve and optimistic, the two missionaries try to share their faith but have trouble connecting with the locals, who are consumed with worries about violence, famine, poverty and AIDS.

“The Book of Mormon” takes sharp aim at Mormonism specifically and religious credulity in general while also charging headlong into the politics of gender and colonialism. There’s a lot going on under the razzle-dazzle.

The show is clothed in a collection of catchy tunes. For all its envelope-pushing inventiveness, the musical boasts traditional rousing ensemble numbers that raise the roof: “Turn It Off,” “Man Up” and “Tomorrow is a Latter Day.”

The national tour of the Tony Award-winning musical “The Book of Mormon” continues at the Peace Center through Sunday. Photo by Julieta Cervantes

Conner Peirson is sublimely comical as the socially awkward Elder Cunningham, who has a knack for merging verses from the Gospel with lore from “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings.”

Equally excellent is Liam Tobin as a humorously self-involved Elder Price. Tobin delivers impassioned accounts of soaring tunes such as “I Believe.”

Kayla Pecchioni is radiant in voice and presence as Nabulugi, the African girl who becomes Cunningham’s love interest.

Jacques C. Smith, as Mafala, is the soul of geniality as he sings the jauntily profane “Hasa Diga Eebowai” and Andy Huntington Jones has some delightfully campy scenes as the represented Elder McKinley.

A dozen men bring blissful smiles and an endearing innocence to the chorus of Mormons. They produce a mighty sound – and they tap dance, too!

This raucously funny “Book of Mormon” continues at the Peace Center through Sunday. For tickets, call 864-467-3000 or see the website www.peacecenter.org.

Paul Hyde, a longtime Upstate journalist, writes about the arts for the Greenville Journal. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @PaulHyde7.

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