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The Book of Mormon Review

. Saturday, 14 March 2020 .




It's satire. It's satire. It's satire. I kept telling myself this throughout the first act of The Book of Mormon - now showing in Auckland's Civic Theatre. Everyone told me I would love it. I do admit I left the theatre feeling a lot of complicated feelings that definitely made me question my moral compass and ultimately my own faith and beliefs. I'm not the most religious person out there but I did grow up Catholic so the theme of organised religion depicted here was something I was vaguely familiar with. But The Book of Mormon is far more nuanced than that.




It's also one of the most anticipated shows of this year. I checked my phone at intermission and my Instagram messages were inundated with questions about it. Friends who have seen it already, friends who are hardcore fans and have seen it in Broadway (I would have loved to see Josh Gad as Elder Cunningham - a role that is a far cry from his Disney roles so far). I've thrown the questions back at them. What did YOU think about it? And it was polarising. Some loved it so much and called it the best musical ever. Some said it was offensive and racist, that topics like female genitalia mutilation, pedophilia, and the racist portrayal of Ugandans were far too inappropriate even as a satire. Some said they liked it, not loved it. That it didn't quite hit the mark for them, but the musical numbers and performances were fantastic. I think those truths can exist at the same time. A musical can be both satirical and cross that fine line.




I had a conversation with my colleague the next day around it because she had already seen it and so we were free to wax lyrical without the spoilers. I asked her how she would describe the show to someone who doesn't know what it's about and we both agreed it was quite complex and hard to describe. It's a satire that mocks organised religion. It's a satire that mocks Americans and Ugandans. It's a satire that even mocks musicals with deliberately over the top numbers (I thought that was brilliant - Spooky Mormon Hell Dream and it's rock n' roll style showed that clearly). It mocks white saviours and those with a hero complex.




I found the show to really pick up in the second act and redeemed some of the earlier perceptions I had of it. The best number for me was "I Am Africa" - a performance that's as hilarious as it is telling.




From the opening number "Hello" - an ode to door knocking and introductions to the closing number, the hopeful and surprisingly profound "Tomorrow is a Latter Day", the cast does a fantastic job at entertaining and embodying their characters. Every single one of them gave such a strong performance - perhaps why I had to keep reminding myself that it was a satire. They were that convincing!





The Book of Mormon did make a powerful point that this story was told from a western perspective, and that actually, a lot of people from countries like the United States do share those beliefs and othering of people from countries like Africa. Especially the running "joke" throughout the show that Elder Cunningham deliberately butchered the pronunciation of Nabulungi's name (even calling her Nutella and Necrophilia at one point). I think The Book of Mormon did a great job highlighting those subtle microaggressions that people of colour face on a daily basis. Something as simple as people not learning how to pronounce their names properly added a certain gravitas to the show for me. I did love that they flipped some of this negative stereotyping of Ugandans toward the final act - showing that the Ugandans weren't as naive and stupid as they were made out to be. That was the key moment for me.





Ultimately The Book of Mormon stretches the boundaries of satire, self-aware without being self-serving. We arrive at the end of it a little more compassionate and empathetic towards the people who live differently to ours, a reminder that perhaps each of us are on the same mission ourselves, just doing the best we can, in ways that we think is right. That community and faith - in its many shapes and forms and however that looks - is what gets us through life.





The Book of Mormon is now playing at The Civic. Get tickets here.




It's satire. It's satire. It's satire. I kept telling myself this throughout the first act of The Book of Mormon - now showing in Auckland's Civic Theatre. Everyone told me I would love it. I do admit I left the theatre feeling a lot of complicated feelings that definitely made me question my moral compass and ultimately my own faith and beliefs. I'm not the most religious person out there but I did grow up Catholic so the theme of organised religion depicted here was something I was vaguely familiar with. But The Book of Mormon is far more nuanced than that.




It's also one of the most anticipated shows of this year. I checked my phone at intermission and my Instagram messages were inundated with questions about it. Friends who have seen it already, friends who are hardcore fans and have seen it in Broadway (I would have loved to see Josh Gad as Elder Cunningham - a role that is a far cry from his Disney roles so far). I've thrown the questions back at them. What did YOU think about it? And it was polarising. Some loved it so much and called it the best musical ever. Some said it was offensive and racist, that topics like female genitalia mutilation, pedophilia, and the racist portrayal of Ugandans were far too inappropriate even as a satire. Some said they liked it, not loved it. That it didn't quite hit the mark for them, but the musical numbers and performances were fantastic. I think those truths can exist at the same time. A musical can be both satirical and cross that fine line.




I had a conversation with my colleague the next day around it because she had already seen it and so we were free to wax lyrical without the spoilers. I asked her how she would describe the show to someone who doesn't know what it's about and we both agreed it was quite complex and hard to describe. It's a satire that mocks organised religion. It's a satire that mocks Americans and Ugandans. It's a satire that even mocks musicals with deliberately over the top numbers (I thought that was brilliant - Spooky Mormon Hell Dream and it's rock n' roll style showed that clearly). It mocks white saviours and those with a hero complex.




I found the show to really pick up in the second act and redeemed some of the earlier perceptions I had of it. The best number for me was "I Am Africa" - a performance that's as hilarious as it is telling.




From the opening number "Hello" - an ode to door knocking and introductions to the closing number, the hopeful and surprisingly profound "Tomorrow is a Latter Day", the cast does a fantastic job at entertaining and embodying their characters. Every single one of them gave such a strong performance - perhaps why I had to keep reminding myself that it was a satire. They were that convincing!





The Book of Mormon did make a powerful point that this story was told from a western perspective, and that actually, a lot of people from countries like the United States do share those beliefs and othering of people from countries like Africa. Especially the running "joke" throughout the show that Elder Cunningham deliberately butchered the pronunciation of Nabulungi's name (even calling her Nutella and Necrophilia at one point). I think The Book of Mormon did a great job highlighting those subtle microaggressions that people of colour face on a daily basis. Something as simple as people not learning how to pronounce their names properly added a certain gravitas to the show for me. I did love that they flipped some of this negative stereotyping of Ugandans toward the final act - showing that the Ugandans weren't as naive and stupid as they were made out to be. That was the key moment for me.





Ultimately The Book of Mormon stretches the boundaries of satire, self-aware without being self-serving. We arrive at the end of it a little more compassionate and empathetic towards the people who live differently to ours, a reminder that perhaps each of us are on the same mission ourselves, just doing the best we can, in ways that we think is right. That community and faith - in its many shapes and forms and however that looks - is what gets us through life.





The Book of Mormon is now playing at The Civic. Get tickets here.

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