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story.lead_photo.caption Conner Peirson has played Elder Cunninghman since near the beginning of the current tour.

It will surprise no one familiar with the work of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, co-creators of South Park, and Robert Lopez, co-creator of Avenue Q, to learn that their musical The Book of Mormon is considered by those who've seen it as irreverently hilarious but with a lot of heart.

And, due to language (including some character names that cannot be printed in a family newspaper) and subject matter, highly inappropriate for the kids.

However, says actor Jacques C. Smith, who has been touring with the show for just over eight months, if you let your youngsters watch South Park, you may consider letting them see this show.

Smith plays Mafala Hatimbi, father of the musical's lead female character, Nabulungi. He's the "voice" of the Ugandan village where two elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are trying to convert the populace; she has becomes liaison between the missionaries and the villagers.

"The show is thrilling, unique in terms of musical theater," Smith says. "We give you all of the elements of a great Broadway musical -- dance numbers, ballads, the humor, the costumes, the grand set pieces, wonderful characters, great laughing moments.

The elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints sing and dance in The Book of Mormon. The national tour arrives this week at Little Rock’s Robinson Center Performance Hall.

"And for people who aren't used to musical theater, [it's from] the creators of South Park, so it brings in a younger, newer audience who are familiar with their comedy. It is edgy, but it is funny, it is smart. They take chances.

"And The Book of Mormon does take chances, compared to a traditional musical theater. But the heart of the show shines without question. Just stay for the entire ride, because it's worth it."

The show's national tour is sitting down for a week, 7:30 p.m. today-Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, at Little Rock's Robinson Center Performance Hall, under the auspices of Celebrity Attractions.

Liam Tobin plays Elder Price, an enthusiastic go-getter with a strong dedication to his faith; Conner Peirson plays his partner, Elder Cunningham, a socially awkward but well meaning nerd whose tendency to embroider the truth soon lands him in trouble.

Smith describes his character as the village spokesman, similar to a mayor if the villagers had ever had a formal election, or, perhaps, the head of the local chamber of commerce.

"Everybody in the cast is lucky enough to both sing and dance, and I'm one of the principals, so you get to hear me talk a great deal as well," he says.

Mormon missionaries proselytizing in a small Ugandan town form the basis of The Book of Mormon.

This particular tour, while hitting Little Rock for the first time, has been on the road for more than six years, and Smith says four months ago in Anchorage, Alaska, "it welcomed its 5 millionth patron. And that's for just this tour." That's not counting all the folks who have seen it on Broadway, where it won nine 2011 Tony Awards, including best musical, or on any of the other tours across the world.

"It has a wonderful heart," he says. "If it didn't, it wouldn't be welcoming 5 million patrons. It wouldn't be this way if it only ruffled people's feathers.

"It is a wonderfully shocking musical, and I say 'wonderfully' because it's full of surprises, and that is actually what makes great theater great art, often. It's not when you can predict everything or know what to expect, but when a piece of art can take you on a journey, [as] when a novel gives you something you did not expect in the plot."

It took Smith a couple of years to finally land this role.

The Book of Mormon

7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Robinson Center Performance Hall, 426 W. Markham St. at Broadway, Little Rock. Presenter: Celebrity Attractions. Book, music and lyrics by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and co-creator Robert Lopez

Tickets: $35-$128; a pre-show lottery for each performance at the box office for a limited number of $25 tickets

(501) 244-8800; (800) 982-2787 (ARTS)

"It's a popular show; it has been a Broadway hit for eight years," he explains. He's now based in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and son but "I did live in New York and did Broadway there" (including productions of If/Then and Rent).

He did his first Book of Mormon auditions in L.A. and got a callback, but "even if they like an actor, and I know now they liked me, sometimes the role for which they want you isn't available, so they keep your name on a short list of people they would at least want to see again. So if you're not working on another show, you get the call."


Celebrity Attractions will conduct a pre-show lottery at the box office before each performance for a limited number of $25 tickets.

They'll accept entries starting 2 1/2 hours prior to each curtain; print your name and the number of tickets (one or two) you wish to buy on the provided card. Two hours before curtain, they'll draw names at random for the limited number of available tickets.

Only one entry per person -- and they'll check cards for duplication before each drawing -- and a maximum of two tickets per winner. You must be present at the time of the drawing and show valid ID to buy tickets.

Style on 02/12/2019

Print Headline: Naughty but nice: Irreverent with heart, 'Book of Mormon' comes to Little Rock after 6 years on the road

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