The Book Of Mormon
Book, music and lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone
Playing at the Princess Theatre, Melbourne
The hype for this musical juggernaut has been huge, seemingly ever since it debuted on the Broadway in 2011. Six years of hype has built huge anticipation as The Book of Mormon makes its Australian stage debut, and even when taking all of that into consideration, the show blows away all expectations and turns out to be one of the most spectacular pieces of theatre I’ve ever witnessed.
You don’t have to be a fan of South Park, Team America, Orgazmo or any of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s other work to enjoy this, but if you’re partial to their brand of off-colour but at times oddly sweet-natured comedy, you’ll adore this. The pair have teamed with an amazing talent for this production – Robert Lopez, the genius behind the wonderful puppet musical Avenue Q and the songs in the Disney megablockbuster Frozen.
Anyone who is familiar with Parker and Stone’s work will know this isn’t going to be overly cruel to the Mormon faith or to any race, nation or religion. Their comedy is always tinged with an often unexpected fondness and affection for the targets they lampoon, and this is no different. While there are certainly jokes at the expense of the Mormons and the nation of Uganda, the overall tone of the show is so sweet and affable that I couldn’t imagine anyone finding the show offensive in the slightest.
The story, like most musicals, is a simple one to hang the songs and hilarity on. The excitable, overeager Mormon Elder Cunningham (A.J. Holmes) is paired up on his requisite two-year missionary mission with the straight-laced Elder Price (Ryan Bondy), with their less-than-glamourous destination being Uganda. Once there, they fall foul of a local warlord and find many struggles in converting the local population to the Mormon faith. It’s only when Elders Price and Cunningham have a falling out and Cunningham tries to jazz up the teachings of the Latter Day Saints with movie plotlines and characters that the mission starts to find some success.
Right from the start, the show is chock full of show-stopping numbers. Hello kicks things off, an incredibly catchy, toe-tapping number that has become the show’s signature tune. But throughout the show there are some memorable numbers, from the rock opera stylings of Spooky Mormon Hell Dream to the Lion King-parody Hasa Diga Eebowai. There’s not one song that doesn’t hit the mark throughout the show’s two-hour running length.
The entire cast is incredible, never missing a beat in both the vocals and with some astounding choreography. The show is incredible busy at times, with seemingly dozens of performers taking the stage during the aforementioned Spooky Mormon Hell Dream. Holmes and Bondy are both imports from North American productions of the show, and the Princess Theatre’s stage is lucky to be graced by two such accomplished performers. That’s not to say that the local performers don’t impress as well, with Zahra Newman, playing sweet-natured Ugandan girl Nabulungi, performing several impressive numbers with her incredibly powerful and beautiful voice. Bert Labonte, as Nabulungi’s father Mafala, is another incredible local talent, and his booming voice and comic timing is put to good use as he belts out many of the show’s funniest lines and lyrics.
The Book of Mormon is a show I have literally not heard or read a bad review of, and there’s a reason for that. It’s simply one of the finest musical comedies to ever hit the stage, and looks set for a hugely successful run in Melbourne and the rest of the country. Consider me converted!