The Book of Mormon - The ultimate guilty pleasure

No theatre fan’s life is complete without seeing The Book of Mormon.

If you’ve been hearing shrieks of laughter coming from the Queen Elizabeth Theatre lately, it’s because The Book of Mormon is back in Vancouver. This nine time Tony Award-winning musical is wildly tickling the funny bone of YVR and it feels so wrong…and so right at the same time!

Written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, as well as Robert Lopez, who helped write Avenue Q and Frozen, The Book of Mormon is a musical comedy about two young Mormon missionaries – Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, who are sent on a mission to a disease and poverty-ridden town in Uganda. However, Elder Price is not the happiest person around as he had dreamed of going to Orlando for his mission; and he's also not thrilled at having the socially awkward Elder Cunningham as his mission partner.

Together the two have to overcome the challenges of converting a community of people with no interest in Mormonism, while also trying to stay alive, since the town is run by a violent war lord. Along the way, friendships, a potential romance with a local girl, and some good old fashioned dirty humour keep things fun and interesting.

The Book of Mormon is a humourous take on the clash between cultures. From left to right: Monica L. Patton, Ryan Bondy and Cody Jamison Strand. Photo credit: Joan Marcus

The two leading men in this show, Ryan Bondy as Elder Price, and Cody Jamison Strand, are fine. They’re both very strong and display excellent vocal delivery and characterization. They’ve clearly been well-rehearsed and their performances are at a high calibre synonymous with The Book of Mormon and Broadway Across Canada. However, in my opinion they don’t quite have the heart that Billy Harringan Tighe and A.J. Holmes provided last time The Book of Mormon came to town. Tighe and Holmes had an extra spark and genuineness that was really special. In addition, Tighe is a phenomenal triple threat performer and I remember him including a switch split leap and triple pirouette with charm and polish.

Watching Candace Quarrels in the role of Nabulungi is quite a treat. Her characterization and singing is right en pointe. And her reprise of the song Salt Lake City in the second act is touching. As Elder McKinley, the tap-dancing, closeted leader of the missionaries in Uganda, Daxton Bloomquist brings a refreshing quality to the role and he's very fun to watch.

Obviously, since the show was written by the creators of South Park, it’s full of inappropriate humour that will not fail to keep you laughing long after you’ve left the theatre. With a show with such witty lyrics and dialogue (and a lot of both), it’s really important to have good acoustics. And this production does. The sound quality is excellent and no lyrics get lost from echoing. I previously watched Book of Mormon at the Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary, and it was difficult to hear everything clearly, so I was very pleased to experience the opposite here in Van.

 Candace Quarrels (left) brings a lovely presence and a heartfelt, soulful voice to the show. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.  

Candace Quarrels (left) brings a lovely presence and a heartfelt, soulful voice to the show. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.  

Book of Mormon is ridiculously funny and it’s actually a good Mormon 101 lesson, as the show basically explains how the religion was formed, etc. On a side note, it’s interesting to observe how since the cast only consists of white men, and black women and men, there are no white women in the cast – which means the few times that there are white female characters onstage (moms saying bye to their sons at the airport, and Mormon pioneer women), these roles are actually played by the white male cast members in drag!

While The Book of Mormon isn’t a life-changing experience where you walk out of the theatre looking at the world differently (ie. Wicked, Spring Awakening, Les Miserables), it’s a really fun time. It’s also a very well written and intelligent show with an amazing cast, great direction and choreography, and excellent set, lighting and costume designs. No theatre fan’s life is complete without seeing The Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon plays at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver until September 4. Visit Broadway Across Canada’s website for tickets and more information.