Now I’m not one of the biggest musical fans, but even I know that The Book of Mormon is one of the most controversial and successful musicals of all time. So, when I heard that the musical was finally coming to Adelaide, I knew I that I had to go.
In The Book of Mormon we meet our two main characters Elder Price (Blake Bowden) and Elder Cunningham (Nyk Bielak) in the opening number “Hello!”. Elder Price is the ideal missionary; he is loyal, confident and is wholly dedicated to the church and God. Elder Cunningham however is the complete opposite; he is shy, goofy and not at all confident. So, when the two are paired as missionary companions and Elder Price is sent to Uganda, Africa with Elder Cunningham at his side, Elder Price wonders why his prayers weren’t answered in comparison to Elder Cunningham’s ‘wish’ coming true.Travelling to Uganda, the now Mormon pair preach their religion to a local village who are under threat from a local warlord named General. Here they meet Nabulungi (Tigist Strode), a young Ugandan woman who helps them spread the word of their faith to the other villagers. What starts out as sincere trip with good intentions turns into a bumpy road filled with chaos and blasphemy which is completely and utterly hysterical.
The Book of Mormon initially graced the Broadway stage 2011 by mischievous geniuses Trey Parker and Matt Stone, known for their other successful non-theatre work, South Park. Together with the help of Robert Lopez known for his work on Avenue Q and Disney’s Frozen, I feel that this trio have done a great job to form a musical that pokes fun at many of the beliefs and practices of the Mormon faith, but in a way that also provides viewers which deep and heartfelt meaningful story. The songs are extremely catchy too, packed with cheeky dark humour and puns.
The chemistry between the two lead actors, Blake Bowden and Nyk Bielak was electric, fun and fantastic. Not only did they seem naturally funny together, but they genuinely looked like they were enjoying themselves on-stage. And while the ensemble cast were all very amusing and talented, it was actually Tigist Strode as Nabulungi that stole the show with her rendition of “Baptize Me” which not only vocally impressed me, but had me in stitches.
And of course, you can’t have a musical without dance! The choreography for the Mormons is very over the top; full of energy and cheesy, but it really suits the Mormon character traits and overall mood of the show. The Ugandans choreography starts off quite tribal, but as they learn from the book and fall into the church, their dance becomes a lot more like the Mormons. It may be subtle, but it really adds to the overall narrative.
Not only did the talented team on-stage impress me in The Book of Mormon, but their sets were incredible! No expense has been spared and the attention to detail is next level; from the clean and fresh airport, right down to the buried trash in Uganda. I felt that The Book of Mormon really captured the feel of a small village in Africa, a stark difference to the bright and sparkling Salt Lake City we see at the start of the show. I also need to mention the church framing the stage, with its stained-glass window panels, each with lighting that went along with the whole production was a simple touch that added a lot to the show. This combined with the various backdrops, you really feel like you were being transported across the world while never really leaving your theatre seat. Brilliant.
The costumes were impressive with the matching Mormon uniforms and the African villager outfits, but the costume department particularly shine in “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” where Elder Price finds himself in hell facing demons, skeletons, notorious criminals and Satan himself. The costumes really captured the creepiness and horror of what it would be like in hell, but they also had great comedic flare, with the Satan costume being one of my favourites and is honestly something you have to see for yourself.
If you’ve been on the fence about seeing The Book of Mormon, jump that fence and go see it! As stated before, I’m not the biggest fan of musicals, but I absolutely loved The Book of Mormon. The story is solid, the songs are fantastic and the whole show is hilarious. Be warned, the humour may not be for everyone. But if comedy is your kind of thing, I would highly recommend this musical, even if you’re like me and don’t frequent musicals. I enjoyed this musical so much, I caught myself singing and humming to the tunes of the songs from the show on the way home. Admittedly, I have even started listening to the cast recording on Spotify. And remember, I’m not really a huge musical fan! Do yourself a favour and go see The Book of Mormon. I personally would happily see it again and again.
The Book of Mormon is currently playing at the Adelaide Festival Centre until August 11. For more information on tickets visit: https://bookofmormonmusical.com.au
Photography by Jeff Busby.