Book of Mormon is not a family show, but I highly recommend getting a sitter and checking it out!
From South Park‘s Trey Parker and Matt Stone along with Avenue Q‘s Robert Lopez, this satire delves into some of the inconsistencies of religion, in particular the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints through humour, song and dance. The story follows two young Mormon men on their first Mission in Uganda, Elder Price, the model Mormon played by Kevin Clay and Elder Cunningham, the insecure Mormon in training played by Conner Peirson. The mismatched pair are hoping to bring African’s together by sharing their religion but are met with quite a surprise when they arrive. With a “zero” record for baptism by the team of Elders three months into their mission, it doesn’t look promising that the locals, faced with AIDS, poverty, violence and war, will be open to finding religion. In fact, they share their current view of life through songs like “Hasa Diga Eebowai” (a dirty version of “Hakuna Matata” that I will leave to urban dictionary to define since this is a family site). Through a series of unfortunate, but hilarious circumstances, the unlikely hero is Elder Cunningham who interests the locals through his imaginative version of the book (including references to Star Wars, Star Trek and Lord of the Rings). The locals find devotion to a fake religion that brings the community together, though displeases the Mission President during “Joseph Smith American Moses” when the Ugandans perform Elder Cunningham’s version of the Book of Mormon.
With many risqué elements to this show, it is not for the sensitive audience. We found ourselves laughing throughout at the timing and comedic delivery in the show which definitely pushes the boundaries in religion to religion and culture. From the opening act “Hello” and the mission pairing “Two by Two” through to popular songs like “Turn it Off” and “I am Africa” the show did not disappoint with performances of song and dance. We really loved the costume and choreography of “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” and “Man Up” especially. The lights, set design and choreography all came together to create a visual ensemble that was entertaining to watch. I saw the show last time it was in Vancouver and really enjoyed a second viewing last night because there are so many clever jokes woven into each song and performance it is easy to miss the first time.
For example, “Turn it Off” which suggests you ignore any feelings of negativity, sadness or homosexuality by turning it off like a light switch contains so many hidden gems of humour. Or “You and Me (but Mostly Me)” which highlights Elder Cunningham’s role as a side-kick to the Mormon pride Missionary Elder Price. Kevin Clay did a fantastic job as start student turned lost Mormon trying to find his way at a coffee shop (an average persons alcohol bender at a bar) depressed and dreaming of “Orlando”.
Outstanding performance credit goes to Conner Peirson as Elder Cunningham who showed elements of insecurity and neediness after a childhood of not being enough. His pronunciation of a Uganda woman’s name (Nabulungi, played by Kayla Pecchioni) changed every time from Nabisco to Nikki Minaj, and Neutrogena. Stellar performance throughout the show but especially in “Man Up” and “Baptize Me” with Pecchioni. His talent in not just in physical humour but delivery as well as song and dance, that guy was busting moves and the audience loved it. We also really loved the General, played by Corey Jones who embraced the role and inflicted fear in the locals.
In the end, the Book of Mormon explores religion from a place of “metaphor” through humour, song and dance and it sends the message home that community can come together, even through harsh times and that is exactly what Elder Cunningham helped do in Uganda. Leave the kids at home and go see this show for a night of laughter and applause. You will see exactly why this show has been so successful on tour!
Book of Mormon plays at Queen Elizabeth Theatre until September 30, 2018
Check out Broadway Across Canada for more tour dates and shows.