‘Mormon’ mania shows no signs of waning 

“The Book of Mormon” is back – cheerfully offending audiences all over again.

The national tour of the award-winning musical has returned to San Francisco for the third time, playing at the Orpheum Theatre through June 27. There are no signs the popular show is slowing down; the appreciative opening night audience on Wednesday laughed wildly and heartily from the outset.

It’s a witty, irreverent musical – and blasphemous, too. When a pair of wide-eyed missionaries (played by Billy Harrigan Tighe and A.J. Holmes) are sent to Uganda to convert a group of villagers, one of them quickly discovers that making up stories is a lot more successful than teaching from the real spiritual text. Especially since he never read it.

“The Book of Mormon” is the brainchild of “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and “Avenue Q’s” Robert Lopez. It starts off – where else? – with proselytizing.

“As soon as we realized the show was going to be about missionaries, we realized that it would be a great introduction to just ring a massive amount of doorbells and somehow work them into a musical number,” says Parker in an interview published in the program. “This symphony of doorbells and white boys with good haircuts and white shirts and black ties – saying 'hello' and offering you a free book – seemed very much an opening number to us. It is totally Disney in sensibility and totally Mormon in attack.”

It is, perhaps, not a show for everyone. No subject is spared, from the threat of genital mutilation to AIDS. For some viewers, there may be times the humor crosses a line, but if you’re a fan of “South Park," this is familiar turf.

There are several standouts onstage, including Tighe and Holmes. Alexandra Ncube also does a lovely job as villager Nabulungi as does Corey Jones, whose performance of a ruthless warlord is pitch-perfect. Truthfully, though, there isn’t a weak link in the entire cast.

The sets are a visual treat, thanks to scenic designs by Scott Pask. One minute the audience is transported to a Ugandan village; the next, on a fiery trip to hell.

As advertising materials note, the show is recommended for audiences 17 and over. There are plenty of sexual references and free use of the “F” word.

REVIEW

The Book of Mormon

Where: Orpheum Theatre, 1182 Market St., S.F.

When: Tuesdays-Sundays; closes June 27

Tickets: $60 to $250

Contact: (415) 551-2075, www.shnsf.com

Note: A limited number of cash-payable $29 tickets are for sale in a lottery before each performance.

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Cathy Bowman

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