Talking religion, heart and the F-word with the star of ‘Book of Mormon’
JAN 25, 2017 | CINDY LANDRUM
Riddled with potty humor and F-bombs, “The Book of Mormon” might not seem like the catalyst to serious conversation about religious beliefs. But that’s exactly what the Broadway musical written by the creators of “South Park” is, according to Gabe Gibbs.
In “The Book of Mormon,” Gibbs plays Elder Price, the straight-laced missionary whose faith is tested when he realizes his hope of doing something “incredible” with his life is challenged by his assignment to a small African village.
“There are things that are broken in organized religion,” says Gibbs, a pastor’s kid who was raised in a nondenominational church and starred in “The Book of Mormon” on Broadway. “The heart of it is right, but it’s gotten covered and turned and twisted and tweaked. This show is, ‘Let’s find what the heart is.’ This show does a really good job of that.”
“The Book of Mormon,” which returns to Greenville on Tuesday for a one-week run, tells the story of Elder Price, a handsome and confident man whose hopes of a mission to Orlando, Fla., flame out when he and the insecure Elder Cunningham are sent to Uganda. Gibbs’ character has a strong dedication to his faith, while his partner is socially awkward and tends to embellish the truth. Price’s effort to convert the villagers to Mormonism by teaching them about the religion’s founder, Joseph Smith, fails while Cunningham bends the truth because it will ultimately help them. Cunningham’s efforts slowly convert the villagers. The missionaries are ordered home after the head of the mission realizes what the villagers were taught and Price realizes that Cunningham was right all along, that it is not the scriptures that are important but instead it is the knowledge that religion can help people.
“Some people write it off as something that just pokes fun at religion just to poke fun at religion,” Gibbs says. “But I don’t think that’s it. The show has a special heart. It sparks conversations that may not otherwise occur. How many people would come to see a musical about religion? But they will come to a show about religion that’s full of F-words and fart jokes.”
The actor says his father has seen the irreverent foul-mouthed satirical musical several times. “He liked it, at least that’s what he told me,” Gibbs said. “Seriously, interesting, important conversations are a part of my family’s DNA.”
Gibbs got into acting in high school after he broke his collarbone playing football his freshman year.
“My season was over, and my choir teacher told me to audition for a musical. I got the part of Seymour in ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’” he said. “I was a lot better at theater than football. And if you get your butt kicked on stage, it’s not nearly as painful. By my junior year in high school, I was pretty sold on it.”
What: “The Book of Mormon”
Where: Peace Center
When: Jan. 31–Feb. 5
Note: Contains explicit language
Twenty tickets are available to each performance of “The Book of Mormon” for $25. Here’s how to get one.
- Go to Peace Center Concert Hall lobby 2.5 hours prior to each performance.
- Get entry card (one per person) and print name and number of $25 tickets desired (one or two).
- Names will be drawn at random, two hours before curtain.
- Winners must be present and show valid ID to purchase tickets.