Hilariously Crude: The Book of Mormon Review
· 10 min. read
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"Hasa diga eebowai."
Or, in English, "Fuck you, God."
That is the premise of The Book of Mormon, which performed at the Conexus Arts Centre in Regina from September 25th - September 29th. I attended the performance on September 26th, courtesy of Broadway Across Canada.
If the opening sentences of this article shocked you, you aren't alone. The Book of Mormon is a hilariously offensive production created by the geniuses behind South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The duo also partnered with musician Robert Lopez, who is known for his work on Disney's Frozen.
The Book of Mormon starts off with a brief history of the Mormon religion. Unlike many Christian religions, Mormons believe that there is a third part to the Bible, complimenting the Old and New Testaments, and that it took place in North America. They believe that four Hebrew tribes settled in North America around the year 600 BCE; the Nephites, the Lamanites, the Jaredites, and the Mulekites. Separately, they all sailed from Israel to North America to start up a new civilisation.
In 326 CE, Jesus came to the leader of the Nephites around modern-day New York and gave them several golden plates. These plates were like the stone tablets Moses received many centuries earlier. Jesus told them to keep the plates safe and hide them since their civilisation would soon be wiped out by war. The Nephites buried the plates to keep them safe, and about sixty years later their civilisation was destroyed by their rival tribe, the Lamanites.
Fifteen hundred years later, in 1823, a settler named Joseph Smith was living in the area where the Nephites once lived. He was visited by an angel named Modi and was told about the golden plates. Modi then instructed Smith to go dig them up and translate them. He dug up the plates, copied their contents and returned them back to the angel. From there, Smith put the inscriptions into a book, and that book became The Book of Mormon.
Over a century later, the Mormon religion has grown around the world, with their religious centre being in Salt Lake City, Utah. Mormons train missionaries in Salt Lake City to travel the world and spread the word and the writings of Joseph Smith.
Salt Lake City is where The Book of Mormon begins. Each brother of the church is named an "Elder", with the main characters being Elder Price and Elder Cunningham. Elder Price is a successful, handsome leader who wants to make a difference in the world, while Elder Cunningham, a messy, awkward, bumbling fool. The two opposites are selected as partners and are stationed in District Nine of Uganda for two years to spread the word of Joseph Smith.
However, District Nine has many deep sociological issues, ones that the missionaries are not equipped to handle. Everybody in the district is poor or sick, about eighty percent of the population has AIDS, and a tyrannical warlord named General Butt-Fucking Naked is encroaching upon the city. The warlord believes that the reason for all the suffering is due to the female clitoris, with his solution being to cut them off and mutilate every woman they find.
(I mentioned the musical was created by the same people that made South Park, right?)
With all that going on, the Elders find an even bigger issue. Although there are about a dozen Mormons already stationed in District Nine, they have not been able to conduct a single baptism. The people of Uganda have zero interest in The Book of Mormon as they are too busy struggling to live. With all the hardship in their lives, the locals developed a negative attitude towards anything divine, simply expressed as "hasa diga eebowai" or "Fuck you, God".
The Elders then find themselves in both an internal struggle with their own faith and beliefs, and an external struggle with the sociological conditions. Both Elder Price and Elder Cunningham must come to terms with who they are if they want to survive their time in Uganda, and with the help of a local woman named Nabulungi, they might just have a chance.
The Book of Mormon has a lot of excellent scenes and the audience is always on edge whenever the stage goes dark. The performance is full of surprises, and the audience never knows what will come up next. Many pop-culture and historical figures make an appearance too, such as Yoda and Darth Vader, Adolf Hitler and Genghis Khan, Sam Gamgee and Frodo Baggins, and even Johnnie Cochran and Jeffrey Dahmer. My favourite scene in the entire performance was the "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" sequence, with a close second being "Turn it Off", because of the incredibly fast wardrobe change.
Overall, I found the musical very entertaining. I liked the character dynamics between Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, I liked the romantic tension between Elder Cunningham and Nabulungi, and every confrontation with General Butt-Fucking Naked. Every time the General came on the stage, you knew something hilarious or shocking would happen.
One complaint I had about the performance was the audio. I sat close to the stage, but it was difficult to hear and understand what the performers were saying. That is partly deliberate since Ugandan accents are sometimes difficult to follow, but it was obvious that the microphones weren't working as they should be. The backup singers were overpowering the soloists, and once they almost forgot to turn on a character's microphone. I'm not sure who to blame for these equipment blunders, but it left a tarnish on an otherwise flawless performance.
Leading up to the presentation, I interviewed Robert Colvin, the standby for the lead, Elder Price. Colvin is from Hertford, United Kingdom, which is just north of London. He began acting at twelve, with his first performance being Macbeth. He said he knew he wanted to be an actor because of how much he loved getting murdered in front of his family and friends.
Colvin was travelling throughout Europe and the United Kingdom until September 2017 when he was chosen for his role in The Book of Mormon in the United States. It was his first audition after graduating from college. He rehearsed in New York City and join the tour in Toledo, Ohio. Since then, he had has been on the road.
Much like myself, one of Colvin's favourite songs in the performance is "Hasa Diga Eebowai". He said it is "maybe the most amazing, shocking, provocative, incredible musical theatre song I think there has ever been."
When asked what he hopes the audience takes away from the performance, Colvin said "[?] I think the show is special because it provides the upmost hilarity with a strong and amazing message at the end. I think that anyone who sees the show will be aware of the reputation that the show has of being shocking and crass but I think people are surprised that there is a really poignant, important and special message at its heart."
The Book of Mormon is showing until September 29th at the Conexus Art Centre in Regina. Once again, thank you to Broadway Across Canada for the opportunity to take in the performance and for the interview with Robert Colvin and for providing the images for this article.
Do you have any interest in attending the performance? Or did you already see it? Let me know in the comments below!
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Categories: Canada, Regina, Saskatchewan