“The Book of Mormon” to make a stop at the Wagner Noel

It’s a musical that’s made audiences tear up with laughter for over a decade and this week, it makes its way to the Permian Basin.

This week, Broadway in the Basin kicks off its 2023-24 season with “The Book of Mormon.”

The musical will have two shows (both beginning at 7:30 p.m.) on Wednesday and Thursday at the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center.

Tickets for the show can be purchased at tinyurl.com/ya6tvm5a.

Written by the creators of “South Park,” Trey Parker and Matt Stone, “The Book of Mormon” won nine of its 14 bids at the 2011 Tony Awards.

The story in the musical comedy follows two Mormon missionaries (Elder-to-be Kevin Price and his friend Elder Arnold Cunningham) as they attempt to preach the faith to the inhabitants of a remote Ugandan village.

However, chaos soon follows as the eager young men are challenged by the lack of interest from the locals, who are distracted by bigger issues such as famine, HIV/AIDS and oppression by a local warlord (whose name we cannot print).

Lamont Joel Whitaker plays Mafala Hatimbi, the village chief, in the national tour of “The Book of Mormon” that will be in Midland this week.

Lamont Whitaker

“I’m super excited,” Whitaker said in a phone interview. “I’m excited every single time we get to come to Texas. I’m from Miami (Florida) so it reminds me of home with the heat and humidity. I love going to Texas. The theaters are so huge.”

In the show, Hatimbi is a single father in the village as well as the chief of the village.

“He just wants what he didn’t get growing up,” Whitaker said. “Right now, in the village, there’s a lot of oppression and hunger and things like that. He just wants his daughter (Nabulungi) to have a better life.”

Whitaker talked about some of the things he enjoys about playing his character in the show.

For him, the best part is making people laugh.

“I love a moment when I get to sing in the spotlight,” Whitaker said. “The show is something different for me in that I get to make people laugh and find different ways to do that throughout the show and tell the story in this outlandish, satirical, musical by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. It’s great to be a part of this production and making people laugh and I get to do it every night.”

In the show, the two main characters meet Hatimbi who shares with them the daily reality of living in appalling conditions while being ruled by an oppressive general.

To make their lives seem better, the villagers repeat a phrase “Hasa Diga Eebowai”- a song that Whitaker’s character sings in the show.

“That song, basically, is an ‘in your face’ way of telling them that ‘you’re not in Kansas anymore’”, Whitaker said. “Like they need to wake up and if they think they can come across seas to tell them how to live their lives then they have another thing coming.”

As for what that title translates to, well, you’re going to have to see the musical for yourself.

It should be mentioned that this musical production is not for children as it contains explicit language (it’s from the creators of South Park).

However, the amount of laughter from the audience has made it worth it for Whitaker and the rest of the cast.

“We’ve gotten a lot of reactions from that part of the show,” Whitaker said. “It’s the first time where you realize what you’re about to get and what you paid tickets for.”

“It’s been amazing to see the fans of ‘South Park’,” Whitaker said. “It’s crazy to see people love this type of theater and we need more of it. In this tour, specifically, we’ve been able to go to cities that ‘The Book of Mormon’ hasn’t been to before so to open this type of theater to as many audience members as possible has been a blessing and share our humor with the world.”

While the show may at times appear to be sacrilegious (at least to those not familiar with this type of humor), Whitaker encourages people to have an open-mind when seeing it.

“To be honest, this show is about faith, but it’s not the only thing it’s about,” Whitaker said. … “If you watch the whole show for what it is and can sit through the uncomfortable moments, you can see what it’s about. You’ll see what we have to go to in order to get to the ending result. It’s not just chaos for no reason.”

For more information about the show, go to tinyurl.com/2c29knwk.

If you go: 

>> What: “The Book of Mormon”

>> When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 27-28

>> Where: Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center

>> Where to purchase tickets: tinyurl.com/ya6tvm5a