Hasa Diga Eebowai – Book of Mormon Review

Looking at the Mirvish lineup this season, the Book of Mormon may not grab your attention. A religious musical is probably not everyone’s cup of tea and who wants to sit in a theatre for 2.5 hours learning about something that the majority of people run away from on the street when stopped by one of their missionaries? 

But when you add the names Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, to the credit line, suddenly the play pulls in tons of media buzz, tickets sell out immediately and everyone raves about what a hilarious, fantastic show it is.

Somehow we managed to get tickets for Wednesday and Thursday night shows when a couple of last minute tickets were released a week ago. Think of it as an early birthday present for Veronica (who celebrated another year on May 1). 

The satirical musical pokes fun at organized religion, an exaggerated and extended take on the South Park “All About Mormons” episode, telling the story of two young Mormons, Elder Price (Mark Evans) and Elder Cunningham (Christopher O’Neill) missionaries sent to a remote village in northern Uganda. Painfully optimistic, the two missionaries set out to share the Book of Mormon with the villagers and change the world. 

However, they have trouble reaching the locals, who are more worried about poverty, AIDS and the brutal warlord General Butt F*cking Naked, who believes that all of the clitorises in the villages will “power up” and destroy him (General Butt F*cking Naked, by the way, is based on an actual person).

Full of ridiculous musical numbers, flamboyant colours, Lion King references and a kick ass Mormon Hell Dream sequence, the theatrics that animation gives you the freedom to create with is successfully brought to life right before your eyes. 

O’Neill is totally lovable as the geeky Elder Cunningham, with an over the top affection and appreciation for the companionship of Mormonism. He bounces around the stage with an adolescent exuberance that you can’t help but smile at. Evans shares a similar enthusiasm, but in a more driven, I’m made for success kind of way. 

The surprising star, however, is Samantha Marie Ware, who plays the African heroine Nabulungi (or something, no one ever seems to remember). Embracing a childlike innocence and wonder, Ware is really the heart of the play, creating the intimate connection between the Elders and the Ugandans, opening up the hearts and minds for spiritual change. 

Eavesdropping on audience members during intermission, an audience that contained surprisingly more grey hair than one would expect, the words “shocking” and “rude” came up a few times. Going back to the credit line, what do you expect from the creators of South Park? If that’s what you’re focusing on in the entire musical, you’re kind of missing the point. Ironically, there is a scene in the show that mocks that kind of selective focus, which is probably aimed at those types of viewers. Consider yourself told.

Don’t fret, though. You don’t have to be a fan of South Park or even appreciate its humour to enjoy this show. While it is similar, Book of Mormon stands on its own. And let’s face it, it’s a bit of a more toned down, mainstream-friendly book of jokes and jabs. It’s a great show, but if you’re expecting the ultimate South Park episode that will leave you utterly shocked and appalled, adjust those expectations and you’ll enjoy it far more.

Unfortunately, the Book of Mormon is sold out and has been for some time, though you can still rush the theatre doors before each show and try your luck at the ticket lottery. 

Images from Google Images