The Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon
Book, Music and Lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone. Lyric Theatre Sydney. Opening Night: March 9, 2018.

Praise the Lord, this is one hell of a musical. On opening night the cast was pitch perfect, milking forensically every joke, crisply placing every foot in the right place and nailing every note. 

The first thing to make your head spin is the Mormon church itself. The musical gives a thumb nail sketch of the origins of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Without showing any disrespect to the beliefs of the 15 million followers of the church it might be suggested that deep reservoirs of faith are needed to believe that a tribe from Israel ended up in the United States in third century AD.

Praise the Mormons for turning the other cheek and ignoring this musical rather than declaring a Holy War, on what is clearly blasphemous to them. The church is also a little flexible. Last century the Mormons did  a U-turn on treating black people as second class citizens. "I believe that in 1978 God changed his mind about Black People," sings Elder Price accurately.

The musical opens with founder Joseph Smith in 19th century regalia, then moves to a bright group of missionaries preparing for their spread his word by ringing on door bells for a number of years.

The clean cut Elder Price (Ryan Bondy) has had a cheesy life right up until the moment he hears his friends are being sent on missions around America or Paris, but he has drawn Uganda. Worse, his buddy is the socially awkward Elder Cunningham - played absolutely deliciously by A.J.Holmes.  His goofy persona reminded me of Jerry Lewis.

Whilst the Mormons are lampooned with a degree of affection, the Ugandan villagers come off less sympathetically.  With political correctness well and truly thrown out the window the Ugandans are either gangsters, or afflicted by AIDS or severe poverty and  generally extremely gullible.

The only likable Ugandan is the sublime Zahra Newman as Nabulungi. Her duet with Elder Cunningham - Baptize Me - is positively scrumptious.

The band of hapless Mormons are by contrast a jolly band, veering onto the gay side of the spectrum...led by the screamingly funny Rowan Witt as Elder McKinley.

The music in The Book of Mormon is bouncy and melodic, often parodying iconic tunes from the Broadway canon.  No surprise that there is a hint of The Lion King in the first scene in Africa.

The show stopper is “I believe”, which has heart: ‘I believe that Ancient Jews built boats and sailed to America. I am a Mormon and a Mormon Just believes.’

For South Park fans and Broadway musical buffs, The Book or Mormon is a must see. Just when you think it can't get any ruder or more politically incorrect - it does and then some. 

Just like the hype is sky high, so too are the ticket prices. There is a cheaper way (if you have the time) - turn up to the theatre early and enter the $40 ticket lottery. You could score a seat in the first few rows. It is a front row ticket to heaven.

David Spicer

Photographer: Jeff Busby

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