Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Sunday, 5 February 2017
The Book of Mormon, Feb 4, 2017, Melbourne ****1/2
I was not reviewing this for Herald Sun, so this will not be in print or online for HSun. My review will be solely for this blog. KH
MUSICAL THEATRE Book, music & lyrics by
Trey Parker, Robert Lopez & Matt Stone Princess
Theatre, Melbourne, Australia, from Feb 4, 2017
Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: ****1/2
At right: Elder Price (Ryan Bondy) and Elder Cunningham (A.J.
loins and smash your moral compass before entering the theatre for The Book of
irreverent, over-the-top, satirical production is a riot of memorable songs,
absurd narrative, stoopid dancing and idiotic, religious iconography that
recalls sappy prayer book pictures of Jesus and God.
Even while you
shriek with laughter, you’ll cringe with shame that you are guffawing at such
rampantly offensive, blasphemous, racist and scurrilous material by Trey Parker
and Matt Stone, those wildly successful, bad boys of TV (South Park), film
(Team America) and now musicals, with their new playground pal, Robert Lopez
(Avenue Q, Frozen).
It slams The
Mormons – AKA the Church of The Latter Day Saints – in this tale of two boyish
and naive Mormon missionaries, Elder Price (Ryan Bondy) and Elder Cunningham (A.J.
Holmes), whose two-year mission sends them to Uganda to convert Africans to
their Church and convince them of the Mormons’ seemingly mad, almost Sci-Fi
The show may
break all standards of taste and political correctness, but it adheres religiously
(ironic, eh?) to the conventions of the Broadway musical with its repertoire of
singable tunes, tight choreography and fish-out-of-water characters who go on a
journey into the unknown to learn about themselves and the world.
and lyrics (Parker, Lopez, Stone) are riddled with expletives, foul-mouthed
rants and grotesque references that include raping babies to cure AIDS and
routine clitorectomies on village women.
Casey Nicholaw and Parker, keep up a frenetic pace of outrageously silly
choreography (Nicholaw) and high-octane, comic delivery to leave the audience
gasping for air as they gape open-mouthed at the sheer brutality and lunacy of
the ambition, sense of entitlement and super egotism of Elder Price but still
manages to make him likeable as he demeans his missionary companion, patronises
the Ugandans and confronts his rising doubts. He questions his faith, the
Heavenly Father and the loony story about Joseph Smith digging up the Book of
Mormon that becomes the third book of the Christian Bible. Yeah, really!
versatile as Elder Cunningham, the giggling Star Wars freak, investing him with
childlike energy as Cunningham lets loose his wild imagination – known as lying
in the Mormon church – to create new myths to address the myriad problems faced
by the villagers. He digs deep to sing Man Up then converts the village when he
sings Making Thing Up Again.
Bert LaBonté has a field day as village head, Mafala Hatimbi, leading
the chorus in the effervescent and irreligious Hasa Diga Ebowai.
Zahra Newman who
has a fine voice singing the sweet Sal Tlay Ka Siti, plays Mafala’s daughter,
Nabulungi, whose name Cunningham cannot, for the life of him, get right. (He
calls her Neutrogena, Nutribullet and even Nutella). Newman merges charming,
bright-eyed naiveté with poignant
moments of hopelessness when she feels betrayed by Cunningham’s ‘lies’.
includes an immaculately groomed chorus of Mormon clones, dressed in pristine
white shirts and pressed trousers, and beaming with glittering, white smiles
and their annoyingly relentless positivity. Their chorus of Turn It Off reveals
hilariously how they repress and switch off every little, provocative or
however, make some audience members consider how the arrogant West (read
America) slaps bandaids on horrendous, Third World problems. The Mormons may be
repressed, chauvinistic and puritanical, but they are also hopeful and well meaning
and they have a go at helping others, even if they go about it in a weird way.