By Daniel Skora
“The Book of Mormon” is back at The Fisher Theatre for a limited two week engagement. Detroit is the current stop of this 2nd National Tour even while the original production on Broadway continues to bring in the crowds. The musical comedy won nine Tony Awards in 2011, including Best Musical.
The show is a jocular treatment of the sacred text of Mormonism and how it spreads its message around the globe. It follows two Mormon missionaries, Elder Price (Gabe Gibbs) and Elder Cunningham (Cody Jamison Strand) as they are sent out into the world to preach to the people and convert them to Mormonism. Hoping to be assigned to a fun place like Orlando (read Disney World) where there are plenty of amusements to keep them busy when they’re not spreading the word, the two missionaries are sent instead to Uganda in Africa to join a group of other Mormons already at work among the natives. The part of Uganda they will call home for two years is a primitive place. The natives live in ramshackle huts and have none of the amenities the two missionaries have been accustomed to. Aids runs rampant in the villages. Immediately upon their arrival, the two missionaries are robbed at gunpoint by soldiers of General Butt-Fucking Naked (Marcus Terrell Smith on opening night), which gives you but a hint at the coarse humor that proliferates throughout the show. To make matters even worse, there have been zero conversions to the faith in Uganda despite the fact that Mormons have had a strong presence in the region for many years. It all portends to be an insurmountable task to the two newest missionaries and the other Elders who have grown lethargic over the years.
Eventually, Elder Price becomes disenchanted with his mission (not to mention that unusual out-of-the-way place his copy of the Book of Mormon gets sidetracked to after a run in with the General) and with his pretend friendship with Elder Cunningham, and decides to abandon his mission. That leaves Cunningham, in an astute comedic performance by Strand, to take over and procure the first Ugandan baptism for the Mormons and get the girl in the process (Nubulungi, nicely played on media night by understudy Kristen Jeter).
“The Book of Mormon” is neither for the religiously prudish nor the faint of heart. In the course of its 2 hour and 30 minute running time, topics include the rape of babies, sex with frogs, female genital mutilation, and a running gag that includes the catch phrase “I’ve got maggots in my scrotum” (T-shirt thus emblazoned available in the lobby for purchase). Despite tossing off rather amusingly such usually taboo topics, the show is hilariously funny. The music is high-energy, the cast immensely enthused, and the show’s content not what’s come to be expected from a Broadway musical. “The Book of Mormon” is the creative product of Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone. Parker and Stone are the creators of the animated sitcom “South Park”, Lopez the co-composer/co-lyricist for “Avenue Q”. Set design is by Scott Pask, costumes by Ann Roth.
“The Book of Mormon” runs through November 13th. Tickets are on sale at the Fisher Theatre box office in the Fisher Building, all Ticketmaster locations, by phone at 1.800.982.2787, and online at www.BroadwayinDetroit.com or www.TicketMaster.com. The Fisher Theatre is located at 3011 West Grand Blvd. in Detroit.