Sunday, 12 May 2013

The Book of Mormon Review

From the creators of South Park and Team America comes their first theatre musical, The Book of Mormon. Matt Stone and Trey Parker are the incredibly talented pair behind some of the rudest and best TV and one of my favourite comedy films of the last twenty years. Can you believe South Park is nearly 20 years old?

Anyway, the pair have been making musicals since their first days in film production and the songs written for the likes of the South Park movie and Team America are absolute genius. The Book or Mormon continues this tradition with some very funny musical numbers but nothing quite as exceptional as the songs written for Team America.

The Book of Mormon is about a couple of Mormon missionaries who are sent to spread the word of their nutty religion to the poor and desperate people of Uganda. The Ugandans they meet are under threat from AIDS and a warlord who is keen to circumcise women of the village. There are the usual sick jokes from the creators of South Park and nothing is too sacred for them to make a crack about: rape of babies, execution... you name it.

The Book of Mormon pulls no punches when it comes to targets for jokes, particularly when it comes to the people of Africa and the way they are represented. Mormons actually get off relatively easily. Yes there are references to their racist and homophobic views but its all a bit tamer than I would have expected from Stone and Parker.

As a theatre musical, it is pretty spectacular. The singing, dancing and sets are superb but as a production from the geniuses behind Team America, it isn't as smart or clever as that film. It's bound to shock the shit out of some viewers, particularly the crowds of people who just go along expecting something mildly controversial. The Book of Mormon is filthier, more foul-mouthed and controversial than any musical I've ever heard of or seen. I guess Avenue Q which was apparently an influence would have prepared theatre-goers for something a little more extreme than the typical musical but The Book of Mormon will still offend many.

It's interesting to see that the Mormons are actually advertising in the souvenir programmes for the show so I wonder if they also think they were let off easily. It really does mock the ridiculous elements of the religion mercilessly but it also seems to suggest that making stuff up to make people feel better about themselves isn't the end of the world.

The Book of Mormon is certainly funny and has some great songs but overall, it wasn't as hysterical as I'd hoped. Mocking the Mormons is easy but Stone and Parker didn't quite go as ruthlessly for the jugular as I would have expected. Nevertheless as a big musical production, The Book of Mormon is a brilliant achievement.

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