AISLE SAY San Francisco


Music, Lyrics and Book by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone
Directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker
Presented by Broadway San Jose
San Jose Center for the Performing Arts
255 S. Almaden Blvd., San Jose / (800) 982-2787

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Funny, obscene, energetic, sacrilegious.

These are all ways to describe "The Book of Mormon," the wildly popular musical presented by Broadway San Jose.

Winner of nine 2011 Tony Awards, including best musical, it's the brain child of Trey Parker (who co-directs), Robert Lopez and Matt Stone, the threesome that wrote the music, book and lyrics. Parker and Stone also are known for creating "South Park." Lopez is co-creator of "Avenue Q."

Taking off on the requirement that pairs of young Mormon men must spend two years as missionaries trying to gather converts, the musical focuses on two opposite personalities. Handsome, egotistical Elder Kevin Price (Billy Harrigan Tighe) hopes to go to Orlando, Fla. Instead, he's paired with dorky, insecure Elder Arnold Cunningham (A.J. Holmes) to serve in a village in Uganda.

Kevin is sure he can convert the villagers, but he and Arnold quickly learn that they're more focused on day-to-day survival. They're also threatened by the thuggish General (Corey Jones), who wants to circumcise all of the women.

After some traumatic experiences, Kevin decides to leave, while Arnold stays. He's attracted to and has established a rapport with Nabulungi (Alexandra Ncube), a young women in the village. The villagers are bored when he tries to read the Book of Mormon to them, but they perk up when he uses his tendency to lie in order to embroider its stories with some vividly imagined improvisations.

As for the ways this show can be described, it can be quite funny, but it's liberally laced with obscenities and religious mockery that some people might find offensive.

Perhaps the most lasting impression comes from the energetic dancing by the 36-member cast (choreography by co-director Casey Nicholaw) and fine performances by everyone, especially the principal characters, led by Holmes as the puppy-doggish Arnold. Ncube as Nabulungi is a show-stopping singer, as shown in "Sal Tlay Ka Siti," which is her way of pronouncing Salt Lake City.

Even though this is a road show, production values are high with sets by Scott Pask, costumes by Ann Roth, lighting by Brian MacDevitt and sound by Brian Ronan. Justin Mendoza is musical director.

Running about two and a half hours with one intermission, "The Book of Mormon" might not be to everyone's tastes, but it garnered a loud, enthusiastic response at opening night.

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