Must-See Musical

Ridiculously hilarious Book of Mormon brings inappropriate humor to Austin

Smart and hilarious Book of Mormon brings irreverent humor to Austin

Billy Harrigan Tighe in The Book of Mormon landscape
Billy Tighe as Elder Price in The Book of Mormon. Photo by Johan Persson

The Book of Mormon is not for the faint of heart. You're likely to gasp numerous times at the vulgar and controversial humor, but also to laugh just as loudly. If you're open-minded and not easily offended, the show is likely to tickle your funny bone more than most musicals.

I saw The Book of Mormon during its last Austin tour stop in 2013 and went in knowing full well it would be unlike anything I'd seen before. I took a girlfriend, who is a staunch Catholic, and both our jaws dropped repeatedly — she laughing so hard at moments she snorted. The Tony Award-winning musical is expected to sell out and send thousands into snort-worthy fits of laughter during its one-week run at the Bass Concert Hall from December 8 through 13.

The Book of Mormon is co-written by the men behind South Park, another over-the-top show. To say this production is somewhat unconventional is an understatement.

"It's a typical Broadway show that is anything but typical," explains Billy Tighe, who plays missionary Elder Price. "It pushes the envelope by using language and content that isn't commonplace."

In the coming-of-age musical that uses Mormonism as its backdrop, Tighe says part of the fun of touring with the edgy show is seeing how different audiences respond.

"We continually have wonderful feedback from our audiences, but some take longer to win over. In many cities, the audiences are exuberant from the top," he explains. "But occasionally they're more reserved and slowly snowball into laughter by the end of the show. Either way, the show wins audiences over in the end."

Tighe's character reluctantly heads to Africa with another young man, with whom he has little in common, on a mission to try to convert Ugandan villagers. They are met by some harsh realities, including poverty, famine, and disease — subjects which oddly derive some of the show's funniest moments.

To prepare for his role as a missionary, Tighe (along with the entire cast) was given an education in Mormonism, which included learning the meaning of all of the religious references in the play. He says the show is generally well received by the Mormon community, and there are frequently Mormons in the audience. Some have even come to the stage door to talk to the cast about the production.

"The Mormon church has taken the high road with their approach to the show," says Tighe. "Generally, they have demonstrated that they can take a joke and use the exposure from the show to highlight the good work they’re doing in their community."

Tighe says The Book of Mormon is about much more than religion and sheds light on some real-world issues.

"Worthwhile art should make you think and discuss," he says. "It's empowering to take part in something that makes such a bold statement about the importance of community and working together to take care of the world we all share. All that, and it's just ridiculously funny!"