Crude cheeky comic Book of Mormon comes to Fisher
By Angela Colombo
DETROIT, Mich.–What the world needs now is comedy. Cheeky, sassy, maybe even rude comedy. What the world needs now is Book of Mormon.
This satirical musical paints a picture of what blind faith looks like and asks us to consider whether facts matter when they go up against deep-seated beliefs. And with a few belly laughs, even the most rigid folks might consider examining their conscience.
The clever crudeness makes sense when you know that Book of Mormon was written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone who made their mark as the writers of South Park. Robert Lopez co-wrote the music for Avenue Q.
Playing at the Fisher Theater until Sunday, December 9, Book of Mormon is nothing short of spectacular.
Two 19-year-old missionaries are sent to go to Uganda to teach the inhabitants of a remote village about the Mormon religion. Their goal is to baptize as many villagers as possible. Elder Price, played by Robert Colvin, questions his faith after a series of disappointments that begin with not getting what he prayed for all his life–to be sent to Orlando. To add to his disappointment, Price is assigned to Elder Cunningham, played by Conner Peirson, as his companion. Cunningham is a Mormon who is used to being the odd man out in social situations because, among other reasons, he is known to be a chronic liar or to have a vivid imagination depending on your vantage point.
Peirson’s squeaky, high voice is only one of the qualities that makes Elder Cunningham so endearing to us. In addition to being a Chronic liar and an oddball, Elder Cunningham, doesn’t really know the Book, so he wings it. When he steps outside the lines, he is told to “stick to the script.” Cunningham also can’t pronounce Nabalungi, a villager who he befriends played by Kayla Pecchioni and calls her Jon Bon Jovi, Nabisco, Nikki Minaj, Nala, among other things.
“Africa is nothing like the Lion King!” screeches Cunningham upon their arrival to the small village. And Uganda is nothing like Florida. With the rug of Mormon security being yanked from under Elder Price’s feet, we watch Price question beliefs he has never wondered about before.
One of the first phrases the boys hear upon meeting the villagers is ‘hasa diga eebowai.” A direct affront to God, the boys are both outraged and offended and also realize they have their work cut out for them. Price and Cunningham are idealistic, naïve and have never been out of the state, let alone out of their element. The villagers are cynical from years of hardships and indulging outsiders who have preached then abandoned them with nothing changing.
The musical performances were delightful. I couldn’t stop the sides of my mouth from curving upward into a perma-smile. Lyrics were witty, edgy and blunt as songs outline problems facing the village, including an AIDS epidemic and a warlord insistent on circumcising all female inhabitants. Still with all the heaviness, this is one funny show.
The opening number features ten squeaky clean, brightly smiling, white boys in their white shirts, black pants and ties ringing doorbells and singing out exuberant hellos followed by their eagerness to share their convictions and tell everyone about the Book.
Elder Price’s Hell Dream song and dance scene is more amusing than terrifying with appearances by Jeffrey Dahmer, Hitler and Johnnie Cochran singing “I got OJ freed!”
The singing is clear and harmonies blended beautifully. The dance numbers had high energy and perfect timing and are a feast for the eyes, especially with the costume changes that seem to happen right in front of us. Magical.
Book of Mormon’s production values are almost tangible, opening to a big sky that reminded me of the opening credits of the HBO series Big Love, about a family trying to straddle a mainstream existence while being part of the polygamy wing of the Church of Latter Day Saints.
Effervescent, jubilant, crusty and irreverent, this nine-time Tony Award winning musical makes us laugh at anything that requires us to believe without facts. Maybe laughter is the first step, not admitting it.