I saw the Book of Mormon Musical last night at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre; I loved it.
The musical was created by the South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone; and was as comic and enthralling as most of their animated episodes are.
The story centres upon two naive Mormon Missionaries: Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, as they leave a relatively safe American society to war torn northern Uganda in Africa where violence, sexual assaults, poverty and AIDS are rampant and comforting notions of God and biblical stories are simply irrelevant, unhelpful and meaningless.
The Mormons are portrayed as the metaphorical ‘straight men’ who are ripe for satire, but as Trey Parker often does in his creative works, he sometimes shows the antagonist as inversely well-meaning and as the story unfolds, has a paradoxical benevolent outcome on difficult social issues.
The cast and ensemble were impressive throughout; the music was great (the songs had genius lyrics and melodies) and the comedy was sometimes hilarious and sometimes edgy (very much like the South Park series) but overall an enjoyable night out.
The cast is predominantly American with impressive standout performances from local talent like Bert Labonte as Mafala.
In the late 1990’s, I recall some Mormon Missionaries would occasionally visit my home; they are so polite and well mannered, it’s almost to refuse. The Elders were impressive young men from Salt Lake City and we talked mainly about cultural differences and the highlights in their missionary work than anything about Mormonism. They left a lasting impression but, as the Musical highlights in glaring social detail, missionary work in war-torn and dysfunctional communities would be as much a challenge for any church as any charitable organisation or NGO would ever face. And poignantly, be a culture shock for many people who have grown up in comfortable Western Liberal democracies encountering, for the first time, some devastating communities around the world.
This is the genius of Trey Parker, he can take a complex subject filled with social taboos like the heinous female circumcision practice, infant and child rape, tyrannical oppression by bullying African militias against defenceless villagers, laughable White religious altruism (passing mention was made of past racist Mormon views of Black people) and develop an hysterical as well as a deep insightful commentary (and songs) on this common African issue; that is often ignored, pushed aside or placed in the Too Hard basket.
My sister has seen this musical three times and now I know why.
I loved it: 5 Stars.
Take Care & Cheers