If you’re comfortable laughing at jokes about raping babies, AIDS and female circumcision, and seeing Ugandans portrayed as foul-mouthed yobbos, then you’re going to love The Book of Mormon as much as the Sydney opening night audience clearly did.
Written by the team responsible for the hit television series, South Park, and the musical Avenue Q, the humour is deliberately offensive, blasphemous and racist, it pushes the boundaries at every opportunity. It’s also a brilliantly written, ridiculously funny, rapier sharp assault on organised religions told through the adventures of two naive graduate Mormons, Elder Price (Ryan Bondy) and Elder Cunningham (A.J. Holmes) who, for their first assignment, are posted to an unsuccessful mission in Uganda run by Elder McKinley (Rowan Witt). Here, they find themselves in a hostile environment in which the locals have more to worry about than listening to sermons from well-meaning missionaries.
Ryan Bondy, as the Golden Boy, Elder Price, and A.J.Holmes as the Jerry Lewis-ish, habitual liar, Elder Cunningham, delight with pitch-perfect bravura performances that immediately establish the cheeky tone of the show. Both have played these roles in American companies of the show, but they blend perfectly with the energetic ensemble, who, besides playing multiple roles, execute Nicholaw’s demanding choreography with confidence and panache.
Zahra Newman triumphs as the progressive village girl, Nabulungi. Her duet with A.J. Holmes, Baptize Me with its sly double entendre, provides one of many highlights during the evening.
Sugar-coated with Broadway pizazz in which Casey Nicholaw’s inventive choreography wittily references other Broadway shows, and a succession of catchy, serviceable songs to keep toes a-tapping, The Book of Mormon is brilliantly staged, wonderfully entertaining and surprisingly thought-provoking.
While it may not become your favourite show, it will certainly rate among the more memorable, and the most talked-about. So you’ll certainly have to have seen it to join the conversation. Add it to your “must see” list.
The Book of Mormon
Sydney Lyric Theatre, 55 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont (Sydney)
Performance: Friday 9 March 2018 – 7.00pm
Season continues to 2 September 2018
Information and Bookings: www.bookofmormonmusical.com.au
Image: Ryan Bondy (centre), A.J. Holmes (far right) and the Original Australian Cast of The Book of Mormon – photo by Jeff Busby
Review: Bill Stephens OAM