Monday, March 12, 2018

THE BOOK OF MORMON




Ryan Bondy, AJ Holmes and the cast of "The Book of Mormon" 

Photo: Jeff  Busby
Book, Music and Lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone

Directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker - Choreographed by Casey Nicholaw

Scenic Design by Scott Pask - Costume Design by Ann Roth

Musical Direction by Stephen Oremus

Lyric Theatre, Sydney

Sydney premiere – 9th March 2018 – reviewed by Bill Stephens

Zahra Newman, Ryan Bondy, AJ Holmes and the cast of "The Book of Mormon" 

Photo: Jeff Busby

If you’re comfortable laughing at jokes about raping babies, AIDS and female circumcision, and seeing Ugandans portrayed as foul-mouthed yobbos, then you’re going to love “The Book of Mormon” as much as the Sydney opening night audience clearly did.

Written by the team responsible for the hit television series, “South Park”, and the musical “Avenue Q”, the humour is deliberately offensive, blasphemous and racist, it pushes the boundaries at every opportunity. It’s also  a brilliantly written, ridiculously funny, rapier sharp assault on organised religions told through the adventures of two naive graduate Mormons, Elder Price (Ryan Bondy) and Elder Cunningham (A.J.Holmes) who, for their first assignment, are posted to an unsuccessful mission in Uganda run by Elder McKinley (Rowan Witt). Here, they find themselves in a hostile environment in which the locals have more to worry about than listening to sermons from well-meaning missionaries.

Phyre Hawkins farewells Ryan Bondy and AJ Holmes on their journey to Uganda.

Photo: Jeff Busby

Ryan Bondy, as the Golden Boy, Elder Price, and A.J.Holmes as the Jerry Lewis-ish, habitual liar, Elder Cunningham, delight with pitch-perfect bravura performances that immediately establish the cheeky tone of the show. Both have played these roles in American companies of the show, but they blend perfectly with the energetic ensemble, which includes former Canberran, Billy Bourchier, and who, besides playing multiple roles, execute Nicholaw’s demanding choreography with confidence and panache.

Zahra Newman triumphs as the progressive village girl, Nabulungi. Her duet with A.J. Holmes, “Baptize Me”, with its sly double entendre, provides one of many highlights during the evening.

Zahra Newman invites A.J. Holmes to  "Baptize Me"

Photo: Jeff Busby
Sugar-coated with Broadway pizazz in which Casey Nicholaw’s inventive choreography wittily references other Broadway shows, and a succession of catchy, serviceable songs to keep toes a-tapping, “The Book of Mormon”, is brilliantly staged, wonderfully entertaining and surprisingly thought-provoking.

While it may not become your favourite show, it will certainly rate among the more memorable, and the most talked-about. So you’ll certainly have to have seen it to join the conversation. Add it to your “must see” list.

        This review also appears in Australian Arts Review. www.artsreview.com.au

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