An offensive, hard-hitting, Tony, Grammy and Olivier award winning musical that is a total laugh riot, ‘The Book of Mormon’ lives up to the claim of being the funniest musical.
Based on a satirical examination of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ beliefs and practices the musical effortlessly touches issues like female genital mutilation, Africa’s tussle with AIDS, religious conversion by missionaries, misconceptions about other cultures, self-esteem issues, and creation of new fads in such a comical manner that it has its audiences laughing practically every third line of song or book (dialogues in a musical).
The musical starts with a bang to the tunes of ‘Hello’ and ‘Two by Two’ which shows young missionaries (Elders) being trained and assigned different countries to help spread the word of God through the ‘Book of Mormon’. Elder Price the blue-eyed boy who believes he will excel is sent to Uganda. He is paired with Elder Arnold Cunningham the fumbling nerd and compulsive liar, who suffers from low self-esteem. While Elder Price is not very happy with choice of country and partner, Elder Arnold Cunningham is ever ready to play doormat to Elder Price just to be accepted by the latter. On reaching Uganda the two realise their task is next to impossible to achieve. The Ugandans are preoccupied with AIDS, female genital mutilation, warlords and murders, and don’t have time for stories about God. They deal with their troubles by blaming God with a ‘Hasa diga Ebowai’ (F*** you God).
When asked to provide baptism data to the headquarters the other Elders struggle as no baptisms have taken place. Elder Price prefers to leave Uganda but Elder Arnold Cunningham takes on the task of converting the Ugandans. With his penchant for colouring stories with his liberal imagination (Yoda, Darth Vader, hobbits et al) he is able to convince Nabulungi (one of the younger women) who in turn brings the village together. The increasing number of baptisms results in an official visit from the Mission President. The villagers enact scenes of Joseph Smith the American Moses, based on the imaginative versions they learn from Elder Arnold. The Mission President is appalled at the blatant distortion of the ‘Book of Mormon’ and decides to close down the office. In the meanwhile, Elder Price understands his folly when he has a nightmare and returns. He convinces the other Elders that Elder Arnold has chosen to preach in a way that is understood by people. The musical ends with the Elders and the villagers continuing to preach the word of God through what now becomes the ‘Book of Arnold’.
The opening numbers ‘Hello’ and ‘Two by two’ are well choreographed, as is ‘Hasa Diga Ebowai’ which has some African moves thrown in. ‘Baptise me’ has Arnold Cunningham and Nabulungi sharing a tender moment and is beautifully sung by both. ‘Making things up again’ is a number that portrays Arnold Cunningham’s imagination and has characters like Lt. Uhura, Yoda, Darth Vader and the hobbits making an appearance. ‘Spooky Mormon Hell dream’ that showcases Price’s nightmare has characters like Adolf Hitler, Chengez Khan, and Jeffery Dahmer making an appearance. Both numbers are brilliant for the way they intelligently weave in a host of characters in a story that speaks of religion. The sets are well done and do not overshadow the performance.
Trey Parket, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez worked on the musical for a good seven years right from development to staging mini presentations of 30 minutes (spread over four years) because they were not convinced about the product. Their efforts have clearly paid off with their audiences in splits at practically every third line.
The Book of Mormon played in Zurich recently. If you are considering watching it, take a look at other locations that it will be playing in here: https://thebookofmormonmusical.com/
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