Home » ‘Book of Mormon’ Converts a Full House at Community Center Theater
Film Review

‘Book of Mormon’ Converts a Full House at Community Center Theater

What do you get when you combine Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the subversive minds behind “South Park” and Robert Lopez, composer-lyricist of the irreverent puppet musical, “Avenue Q”?

You get the hysterically funny, dare-I-say-it brilliant, standing ovation-worthy, multi Tony Award-Winning musical, “Book of Mormon” now playing to sold-out audiences at Sacramento’s Community Center Theater.

When “Mormon” debuted in 2011, it was the hottest ticket on Broadway, with brokers easily selling tickets for $1,000. During its first week of its iTunes Store release, the cast recording became the fastest-selling Broadway cast album in iTunes history. After the show’s success at the 2011 Tony Awards (it won 9 – including Best Musical), the record became the highest-charting Broadway cast album in over four decades. It short, it was the “Hamilton” of 2011.

The story centers around the practice that all maturing Mormon males depart from home into the world on a mission to recruit for the faith. We’ve all seen them, two by two, young men designated as ‘elders,’ always clad in black trousers and white shirts with ties, knocking on doors and extolling the virtues of “The Book”. The very funny opening number, “Hello”, introduces us to the newest batch of freshly minted elders, about to learn the locations of their two-year missions. The young men are separated into pairs and head to lovely locales, leaving only Elder Cunningham, (A.J. Holmes) a lovable loser who has a tendency to embroider the truth when nervous (and he’s nervous a lot) and Elder Price, (Billy Harrigan Tighe) who just knows he is destined to do something incredible. Elder Price believes he will be sent to Orlando because he has prayed to be sent there. Nope, Elder Cunningham and Elder Price are sent to Uganda, which turns out to be nothing like Disney’s “The Lion King” as Elder Cunningham had hoped. Upon their arrival in Africa, Elders Price and Cunningham learn that in a society plagued by AIDS, poverty and violence, a successful mission may not be as easy as they expected.

The cast is perfection, with a special call out to Holmes and Harrigan Tighe as the wonderfully odd couple, the marvelous Alexandra Ncube as Nabulungi, and Brian Beach, who gleefully steals scenes as Elder McKinley. The show is brilliantly directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker with the former also doing the uproarious choreography.

It may be hard to believe that a play – let alone a musical – that deals with such ‘real’ life issues as drought, warlords, AIDS, violent  oppression, parasites, and so many more atrocities that I can’t print here, could be sidesplittingly funny, but it is all that and more. Stone, Parker and Lopez are relentless in skewering the sacred with both music and book. There isn’t a weak number in the piece, and if I had to find something to complain about it would be that it ended too soon and I couldn’t stay in my seat and watch it again.

Oh, and if you are wondering how the Mormon Church has reacted to the show, you might be surprised. The program has three full-page ads, featuring good-looking, diverse folk and clever copy: “You’ve seen the play. Now read the book” or “The book is always better.” They also had a number of “elders” outside the exit offering “the book” to possible converts. Smart marketing.

One note, “Book of Mormon” is definitely not for the kiddies, and probably not for your 90 year old grandmother. At intermission, I overheard a woman in the row behind me say that she had been offended by a number of things in Act One. I smiled, knowing there would be so much more to offend her in Act Two. As for me? They had me at “Hello”.

“Book of Mormon” has a limited run through Mar 20, at the Community Center Theater, 1301 L Street, Sacramento. 1301 L Street, Sacramento. Evening performances are at 8:00 p.m. except for Sunday, March 13 at 7:30 p.m. Matinee performances are Saturday, March 12; Sunday, March 13, Thursday, March 17, Saturday, March 19 and Sunday, March 20 at 2:00 p.m.

While the show is currently sold-out, additional might still become available. It’s encouraged to join their mailing list for updates. For more information, visit californiamusicaltheatre.com.

Photo Credit: Company of the Broadway Sacramento presentation of “The Book of Mormon” at the Sacramento Community Center Theater March 9 – 20, 2016. By Joan Marcus.


About the author

Jean Cress-Black

Jean Cress-Black began reviewing films and delivering entertainment news on KRTH Radio in Los Angeles, XHRM Radio in San Diego, and KMFO Radio in Aptos/Monterey. She had a nationally syndicated radio program with Westwood One called “On the Move”, and hosted a weekly classic movie show on KRUZ-TV in Santa Cruz, California.
As a film and theater critic, Jean has written for Senior Spectrum in Sacramento, The Roseville Press Tribune, The Carmichael Times, American River Messenger, The Placer Mercury, and the Natomas Messenger.

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