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Concert Reviews:
"Book of Mormon" still has plenty of bite at the Fisher

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Thursday, December 6, 2018

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You'd think that time -- seven years since its Broadway debut -- would take some of the bite out if "The Book of Mormon."

You'd be wrong.

The latest visitation of the musical by "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone," running through Sunday, Dec. 9, at Detroit's Fisher Theatre, is still as wickedly funny and jaw-droppingly blasphemous as ever. Even if you've seen it before, it's tsunami of profanity disarms -- in a good way, of course -- and there are plenty of "Did they just say that?" moments in its onslaught of irreverent (and that's an understatement) one-liners.

It's stayed fresh, in other words. "Mormon" -- about a pair of newly ordained missionaries trying to win converts in a remote Ugandan village ravaged by AIDS and terrorized by a eyepatch-wearing General whose name we can't print here -- has outlived any critics and any of those who were offended; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints even took out a full-page ad in the Fisher Playbill, buying in though still reminding attendees that "Our version is sliiiightly different."

And, for the most part, not nearly as entertaining.

Give full credit to the touring cast for making this "Mormon" work on its return. The crackling ensemble lit up the Fisher with an exuberance and zeal equal to the mission it parodies, deftly executing its densely packed production numbers -- from the opening "Hello" through "Hasa Diga Eebowai," "All American Prophet," "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" and so many others. And "Making Things Up Again" remains a laugh-riot spectacle that weaves Joseph Smith, "Star Wars'" Darth Vader and Yoda, "Star Trek's" Lt. Uhura and a couple of hobbits into a fantastical narrative.

Conner Peirson as Elder Arnold Cunningham is a first among (mostly) equals, blending an unhinged, Jack Black kind of physicality with naive awkwardness (think Flounder in "Animal House") while also revealing a tender self-awareness that gives the show its heart. Robert Colvin as Elder Price has strong chemistry with Peirson, though his portrayal is not quite as uptight and egoistic as the character warrants. Kayla Pechhioni is an effervescent Nabulungi with a room-shaking singing voice, and with his facial and physical nuances, University of Michigan grad Andy Huntington Jones highlights a few scenes as the closeted but struggling Elder McKinley.

The faint of heart, of course, should still probably stay away from "Mormon." It is assuredly not mellowing with age, and it's certainly easy to understand how any LDS church member would be aggrieved. But its ultimate message of belonging and community and even faith still resonates -- albeit not as loudly as the laughs and gasps that "Mormon" provokes.

"The Book of Mormon" plays through Sunday, Dec. 9, at the Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit. Tickets start at $39. A limited number of $25 tickets are available at the Fisher box office by lottery starting two and a half hours before each performance. 313-872-1000 or broadwayindetroit.com.

Web Site: www.broadwayindetroit.com

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