There are people in Toronto who have not seen The Book of Mormon yet. I go by the evidence of the full Ed Mirvish Theatre. The musical has had national and international tours to most civilized corners of the world since its opening on Broadway in 2011 and seems unstoppable. It is back in Toronto.
The Book of Mormon is a high-energy, funny, raunchy (really raunchy), well-scored, robustly danced and splendidly sung and acted show that satirizes The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are better known as the Mormons and if all you know about them is that Mitt Romney is a Mormon you may wish to upgrade your knowledge. You don’t need it but you will enjoy the show more.
The musical is the creation (book, music and lyrics) of Trey Parker Robert Lopez and Matt Stone, the people who gave the world South Park. It is an animated TV show that has been around since 1997 and is known for its clean language, civilized situations and wholesome image of everything.
We begin in a Mormon Missionary Training Centre where young men barely out of their teens are referred to as Elders and are being prepared to be sent out to the world to gain converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
One of the new missionaries, Elder Price (Liam Tobin) is smart, well-spoken, devoted, enthusiastic and ready to do his two-year stint provided it is in Orlando, Florida. His assigned partner Elder Cunningham (Jordan Matthew Brown) is a misfit, a schnook, you might say, who is the opposite of Price and his most distinguishing characteristic is lying.
Their assignment: a village in northern Uganda, a couple of hours from Kampala. This is a negatively flourishing community with its own Idi Amin type of dictator and, in addition to utter poverty, has AIDS, genital mutilation and a few other even more disgusting traditions, if that is possible.
The villagers’ view of religion is expressed in a three-word phrase in their local language «Hasa Diga Eebowai» which I cannot in good conscience translate but will give you a hint or two. One word refers to the Supreme Being, one is the second person pronoun and the third refers to fornication. Now that is not a society waiting to be converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The fun lies in the totally unsuccessful attempt of Price to baptize anyone and in Cunningham’s outrageous lies that rely sci-fi and Mormon teachings of sorts to get converts. The use of vulgar language is used regularly and hilariously. High marks to Tobin and Brown for their performances as comics and singers.
Most of the fun and horror of the musical comes from the Ugandan natives. They are no fools but they are the victims of a dictator. They do have hopes and dreams and Cunningham is able to convert them. But be prepared for subjects like sex with children, sex with frogs and the removal of the Book of Mormon from someone’s rectum. How did it ever get there?
We have the lovely Nabulungi (Kayla Pecchioni) who is attracted to Cunningham and who is attracted to her, who tortures her name and we have the wholesome love interest.
There are appearances by Moroni, Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith. There is a hilarious scene where the President of the Mission (Ron Bohmer – he plays several roles) is entertained with stories about the Mormons including the fact that sex with a frog cures AIDS. He orders the mission closed pronto.
The performances are spot on, the music and singing vivacious and quite terrific and the production values of the highest. Casey Nicholaw is the choreographer and he directs the show with co-author Trey Parker.
The Book of Mormon is not for everyone. I met two acquaintances in the crowded bar of the theatre during intermission as they were pushing their way to the door. I asked if they liked the show and they said no. They could not stand the vulgar names applied to the Lord.
The Book of Mormon continues until June 23, 2019 at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, 244 Victoria Street, Toronto, Ont