REVIEW: The Book of Mormon a sacrilegious joy
There are a million ways to describe this big production musical, playing at the Jubilee Auditorium through March 29. You could call it a lampooning of a religion. You could call it a story on the power of metaphorical belief. You could call it a great way to get people to hear a lot of swearing and baptism euphemisms. In reality, it’s a fun tongue-in-cheek musical romp about a couple of young men with good intentions.
Written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park (with Robert Lopez of Avenue Q) as a non-religious love letter to religion, The Book of Mormon is about two Mormon missionaries sent to Uganda to naively try to make the world a better place. When there they realize that their ideological points of view don’t really hold up in an AIDS-stricken, warlord-run village that is rampant with female circumcision and maggoty scrotums, they have to revisit their motivations.
The cast is stacked with talent and it’s hard to point out a weak link. Leads Billy Harrigan Tighe (Elder Price) and A.J. Holmes (Elder Cunningham, right) were powerhouses. Their chemistry was nuclear and their timing Swiss. Holmes’ dimwitted sidekick routine was captivatingly hilarious to Tighe’s golden boy. They brought their magic underwear to life with their calculated yet maniacal charm. While the two only glitches in the show were on Holmes’ microphones, he rebounded flawlessly. In fact, to derail the show there would probably have to be an actual giraffe execution, which still (if done properly) could be funny.
The direction and writing were glorious. There isn’t a wasted moment in the entirety of the show. While some actors in other shows would just take their exits as such, these players left with aplomb as there always seemed to be one more punch to the punchlines. There was a bevvy of cusses and swear words, but they were placed with precision. Having Trey Parker voice the opening scene and first scene after the intermission felt like an added bonus.
In an everyday play, all of this would be enough to get a wonderful review – but then came the music.
The depths of humour and reality were brought to life by Robert Lopez’s songs, punctuated by voluminous vocal climaxes. The choral work was very strong and the lyrics didn’t shy away from the truth. From the song I Believe: “I believe that God lives on a planet called Kolob! I believe that Jesus has his own planet as well. And I believe that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri!” To the point and deadly funny – and it’s straight from the Mormon scriptures.
The 2011 Broadway production won nine Tonys, including Best Musical, Best Score, and Best Director. On top of that, the original Broadway cast recording won a Grammy Award in 2012 for Best Musical Theatre Album. Not bad for maggoty scrotums.
While some people did leave at intermission, it couldn’t have been because of the quality of the work. This show is tight, professional and a joy from beginning to end.