Left – Blake Bowden and Augustin Aziz Tchantcho. Cover – Shauntelle Benjamin, Blake Bowden and Nyk Bielak. Photos – Jeff Busby
This will be a hard task to review because I am worried that I will run out of superlatives. Given the high expectations of this phenomenally acclaimed show it is a pleasure to write that The Book of Mormon achieved every goal.
The show runs as smoothly as a well-oiled machine. The performances are uniformly excellent, the choreography is brilliant, and faultlessly performed. The book and lyrics are full of hilarious jokes and double entendre. That said, there is a guilty pleasure in laughing so heartily at what you absolutely know is “politically incorrect.”
The Book of Mormon takes Elder Price (Blake Bowden) and Elder Cunningham (Nyk Bielak), two young American missionaries on their first foreign posting to Uganda. Elder Price is a shining example of a polite, clean-cut, devoted Mormon while Elder Cunningham is a tubby, clumsy loser who, after a lifetime on the outer, is desperate to find a friend. On arrival in Uganda it becomes clear that their mission will be far more difficult than they’d expected. The village they’re stationed in is overseen by a terrifying warlord and almost everyone has AIDS.
Written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, together with composer and lyricist Robert Lopez, the show is an exercise in vulgarity and blasphemy. However the script and the vitality of the performers is so engaging it carries the audience along fabulously.
Interestingly, the sorry quote from Elder Price, after failing to convert the locals, “It makes no sense at all!” is the kernel of the concept of the “make-believe” Mormonism. However the treatment of this “third book of the Bible” (after the Old and the New Testaments) is surprisingly gentle. Optimism, nice manners and good intent triumph over all it seems.
As Elder Price, Bowden is supremely clean cut, with a mouth chock full of dazzling white teeth and a crystal clear singing voice. Bielak is absolutely hilarious and entirely endearing as the inventive and eccentric Elder Cunningham.
In the big musical numbers that director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw’s crisp, larger-than-life style really makes an impact. There was a Broadway vibe in the packed theatre, with every song receiving an enthusiastic round of applause. Tigist Strode was delightful as the naive village girl Nabulungi. Her voice is pure and true.
It’s difficult to find anything to fault in this marvellous production. The group of all-singing, all-dancing Mormon boys are a tightly co-ordinated unit and the ensemble of Africans are just as great. The set by Scott Pask is a marvel, smoothly transforming from scene to scene. The costumes are inventive with whimsical touches like an African headdress composed of straw brooms. There were a number of lightning paced costume changes drawing appreciative gasps from the audience.
The Book of Mormon is a polished gem of a show. Treat yourself to a really fun evening of musical theatre.
The Book of Mormon
book, music, lyrics by Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez
Director Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker
Venue: Crown Theatre | Great Eastern Highway, Burswood WA
Dates: From 3 September 2019