Eugene O’Neill Theater, 230 West 49th Street, New York, 3 April 2018 –
TVC, being fans of Big Love, were naturally drawn to this sly musical blend of Americana and wacko cult. Joseph Smith would not approve, and frankly, anyone with the gift of real faith, of any sort, would smell blasphemy here. Yet this show is tight, hilarious and brilliantly conceived, staged and performed.
From the prologue where we learn that Jesus, after the disportation, buzzed over to the States and handed a golden book of plates to the Mormons, through an intricate opening number where freshmen Elders ring doorbells to tell the sinners about it, and by way of several sensational musical numbers, this 2 hour show is a monster hit; funny, literate and hip.
Neat, clean, handsome Elder Price (a bumptious and charismatic Dave Thomas Brown) is destined for big things. He dreams of Heavenly Father sending him to save the sinners in his Favourite Place in the Whole Wide World (we won’t reveal where that is, but having been there once, we can verify that, in this context, it’s perfect). However, Heavenly Father has other plans.
The entire cast is superb – we particularly liked Cody Jamison-Strand as Elder Cunningham, a classic loser and hanger-on who turns out to be the only Mormon in Uganda actually baptizing the locals, due to his pudgy charm and habit of bowdlerising the Good Book; Derrick Williams as the General, bemused, dangerous, and looking a lot like “The Duke” from Escape from New York, Stephen Asfhield as Elder McKinley, struggling (vainly) with ambivalent sexuality; Billy Eugene Jones as the village Chieftain and Nikki Renée Daniels as his daughter, both in very fine voice. But really, all played well.
The singing and dancing is perfect, especially in that the dancing is not quite perfect. A selection of song titles and lines will give you a clue to the feel of the show: “There’s no limit to what we can do. Me and You, but mostly ME…!”, “Hasa Diga Eebowa (F..k You God)”, “Turn it Off [doubts, bad feelings] like a light switch”, “Sa Tlay Ka Siti”, “Just Like Jesus, I’m Growing a Pair…Man up!”, “You’re Making Things Up Again, Arnold”, “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream”, “I’m Wet With Salvation”, “Tomorrow is a Latter Day” and “I Am Africa…Just Like Bono”. A packed house had a great night. A certified hit.