Festival Theatre. 29 Jun
It is hard to dislike Mormons.
Of all the religious, they seem the most innocent and inoffensive. I love the way they help each other. I love their fascination with genealogy and spectacular architecture and now I love the way in which they have accepted one of the most comprehensive all-out Mickey-takes in history.
The Mormon leap of faith involves belief that an American prophet named Joseph Smith dug up a section of the bible in the USA and then hid it again while rallying a massive following of missionaries, all of whom were and are devoted to spreading the word of his all-American biblical history, beginning in 1823.
If people can believe this, they can believe anything.
This is pretty much the confronting message of this musical which now has been packing out theatres around the world for decades. It is written by South Park satirists Matt Stone and Trey Parker with Bobby Lopez and between them, they know just how to tap the cultural funny-bone and push the boundaries of bad taste and monstrous vernacular.
In short, they have concocted a victoriously vulgar musical about human gullibility. Not only but also, they have packed it full of bright, bubbly, foot-tapping Broadway tunes, great big catchy songs, and fabulously choreographed dances.
Nothing beats a talented chorus line of white-shirted blokes all teeth and tap shoes.
The plot follows a couple of newly-ordained missionaries dispatched to spread the word in Uganda where vicious warlords have well and truly subjugated a hapless AIDS-ravaged community. Elder Price is smug and ambitious while his mission mate, Elder Cunningham, is something of the classic loser. Blake Bowden and Nyk Bielak carry these lead roles, rich in voice and comic nuance.
The dogged ingenuousness of the missionaries meets with the incredulity of the villagers, everyone believing one risible superstition or another. A beautiful villager called Nabulungi, exquisitely sung by Tigist Strode, tries to breach the cultural chasm. There’s some juggling of values, a personality clash between the Elders, and a torrent of socio-sexual absurdities and crossed wires all around. Throw in Star Wars, donuts, devils, and The Lion King for good measure.
All of the above is adorned and elucidated by darned good Broadway musical numbers.
And now we know why The Book of Mormon has become an enduring hit.
Rounds of applause!
When: 29 Jun to 18 Jul
Where: Festival Theatre