Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard of The Book of Mormon musical. The multi-award winning hit production has been delighting sell-out crowds in theatres from Broadway to the West End to Melbourne and now (finally) has landed in Sydney.
Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone created the book, music and lyrics of this upbeat, cheeky, outlandishly hilarious show that has had audiences around the world laughing together, wincing, humming along and perhaps from time to time gasping in shock.
With tongue oh-so-far in cheek, The Book Of Mormon follows two young Mormon missionaries sent to Africa to share their faith and the stories of "the most amazing book" - the Book of Mormon. Golden boy Elder Price is portrayed by Ryan Bondy, a Canadian artist who has performed in all three U.S. companies of The Book of Mormon, and is joined in the lead by A.J.Holmes, who has already brought Elder Cunningham to life in New York, London, Melbourne and continues to play "his favourite role" here in Sydney.
Australian actress Zahra Newman arguably steals the show with her spectacular performance as Nabalungi, demonstrating her incredible vocal prowess in songs including "Sal Tlay Ka Siti" and the glorious double-entendre-filled duet "Baptize Me". Hers is a voice we look forward to hearing again and again.
The leads are joined by a fabulously tight knit ensemble, whose sharp choreography and infectious melodies carry the show. Numbers such as "Two By Two", "Turn It Off" and of course the opening piece "Hello" showcase the impeccable artistry and timing of the male ensemble of fellow young Mormons. Casey Nicholaw certainly deserves high praise for that choreography.
"Hasa Diga Eebowai", though, is the song we predict you'll be humming for days to come - no spoilers as to what it means, you will find out soon enough.
Perhaps the cheekiest number is Elder Price's solo "I Believe". Bobby Lopez explains that all of the facts expressed in this piece come directly from the Book of Mormon - perhaps they are described in "funny ways", but "there are literally no jokes". Ryan Bondy delivers it well. See what you think.
A select group of musicians form the orchestra (we always check the pit and are relieved to find a live orchestra). The costuming is on point, and the set design impressive. There is a healthy element of mystery in how the swift costume and set changes occur so effortlessly, which points to the talents and experience of the whole team.
As you no doubt have heard, The Book of Mormon is not for the faint hearted - it is a sarcastic production that isn't afraid to poke fun in unconventional and somewhat controversial ways. However after all the build up in this regard... we were actually expecting worse. It's still probably not a show to see with Grandma, but hey, maybe your Grandma is super cool, maybe she'd love it.
Standard tickets aren't cheap, but there is a saving grace in the $40 ticket lottery. Two hours prior to every performance, a limited number of $40 tickets will be allocated at random by a ballot. The ballot opens half an hour before the draw, you must be present in person to win, and each person may enter only once per draw for a maximum of two tickets.
The last minute ballot was how this Scoop writer first saw The Book of Mormon in London's West End two years ago, and I'll tell you there was not a moment during the Sydney performance when I regretted watching the show for a second time. It is as daring, sharp, naughty and fun as ever.
The Book of Mormon is produced in Australia by Anne Garefino, Scott Rudin, Important Musicals and John Frost. It contains explicit language (no sh*t).
Playing now at Sydney Lyric Theatre at The Star. Tickets: BookOfMormonMusical.com.au.
Images: Jeff Busby for The Book Of Mormon