Review – The Book of Mormon: why didn’t I laugh myself silly?
Below: Blake Bowden and Nyk Bielak. Photos by Jeff Busby
The Book of Mormon
Book, music and lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone
Directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker
Musical supervisor and vocal arrangements by Stephen Oremus
Choreography by Casey Nicholaw
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Season: Until May 31and returning in January 2020. Duration two hours and 30 min (includes interval). Bookings: www.qpac.com.au or phone 136 246
It was Gala Opening Night, the Lyric was packed with people, many taking in the show for the second or even third time. The program was stacked with roars of critical praise: “A classic”, “It has beautiful heart”, “A pricelessly entertaining act”, “A (sic) hilarious musical”, “Heaven on Broadway”, “Musical-comedy rapture’, to name but a few.
I had also been warned that it was the funniest night out evah! the best ever musical and to be prepared to laugh myself silly.
So why didn’t I laugh myself silly?
I had also been warned that there was a lot of bad language sexuality and adult or religious themes that might offend.
I was not offended at all; in fact some of those scenes were the funniest of the night. It just did not strike me as very funny overall. Maybe it was because the laughs came mainly in the song, some of which escaped into the rafters of the Lyric because the amplification was pitched too high, particularly with Nyk Bielak as Elder Cunningham, the chubby loser. It was very “shouty”.
The basic storyline had the Mormon school, graduates getting their posting. Elders Cunningham, expecting nothing, and Elder Price (Blake Bowden) hoping for Orlando, Florida, being paired up and sent to an AIDS-ridden Uganda to a village that refused to be converted. The villagers were also harassed by machine-gun toting militia.
There were no complaints about the performances of the two stars, they had plenty of energy and performed excellent vocals. In fact the whole cast was up to the job and there were some song and dance show-stoppers.
There were pluses. The choreography was tight and clever and the white-shirted missionaries danced immaculately in time. Effects were great too, and I did thoroughly enjoy Price’s arrival in Mormon Hell with the song Spooky Mormon Hell Dream.
The show also whistled along at a hectic pace. The two one-hour halves fled by in a flurry of song and dance. But I found the musical numbers to be one-paced and similar in sound. The language was strong at times, but was used for attempted comedic effect, which to me is an old-fashioned concept considering what has become “normal” in everyday life.
People kept telling me that the show was similar in humour to a TV cartoon series called Southpark. I vaguely remember bits and piece - mainly about someone killing Kenny, but I was never a fan for what I suppose was a cult classic at the time. I think I saw it as rather puerile
I did have a chuckle or two, but never in the rib-tickling way of Noises off or the Plays That Went Wrong. For me it never lived up to the hype. Unlike many other audience members and Southpark fans, I just did not find it funny, or even offensive.