New Zealand, your prayers have been answered. With a great big boisterous "Hello!" the epic comedy musical The Book of Mormon has reached us, bringing with it nine years' worth of rave reviews and controversy that have followed it all the way from Broadway.
From South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone,the show centres on a pair of mismatched missionaries - the ambitious Elder Price and the serial liar Elder Cunningham - who get sent to a struggling mission in Uganda.
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From there, the offence begins. No target is off the table as Parker and Stone fill their show with more hubristic lyrics and jokes about AIDS and genital mutilation than a musical has seen before. Religion as a whole is ruthlessly mocked; their nightmare stereotype of Africa is about as politically incorrect as they come.
The opportunity for offence is everywhere but the razor sharp satire never feels cruel in its attacks. By targeting every taboo with the same ceaseless disregard, Mormon manages – just - to get away with its unhinged mockery.
Helping to soften the blow are the uber-talented cast, with their fixed-on smiles making the most awful of jokes seem delightfully pleasant. Blake Bowden, as Price, is an absorbing leading man, carrying the powerful vocals and heart of the story with ease, while Nyk Bielak gives Cunningham the depth and nuance to be more than just comic relief.
Kiwi Joel Granger, as Elder McKinley, is flawless and captivating in triple-threat number Turn It Off, one of the many examples of Mormon's surprising levels of artistry. While the jokes may be what its known for, this is a proper big-budget Broadway spectacle with every other song accompanied by a tightly choreographed dance number and fresh set of costumes on a scale few musicals deliver.
The songbook itself is a modern masterpiece. Parker and Stone's worked with Robert Lopez, best known as the music man behind Frozen, to deliver a perfect collection of contagiously catchy numbers. They move effortlessly from Broadway ballads I Believe and You and Me to comic masterpieces in Spooky Mormon Hell Dream and Hasa Diga Eebowa.
What makes Mormon great is that, for all the hoopla about how it portrays religion, the musical itself is filled with heart. People who reportedly storm out during performances by taking umbrage early on are going to miss out on what ends up being a poignant and well-reasoned argument.
It truly feels like a divine miracle that something as infectiously fun and uproariously entertaining as The Book of Mormon exists. Leave your morals at home, open your mind and settle in for what is undoubtedly the funniest musical this century. So far.
What: The Book of Mormon
Where & when: The Civic, until Sunday, April 26
Reviewer: Ethan Sills