Modern musical on the Latter Day Saints

Mormon Christians, or Latter Day Saints as they are known in the US, are taught to keep a smile in whatever they undertake. Yet the musical about them, «The Book of Mormon», brings even more smiles to the fore.

The musical opened in Norway for the first time on 2 September at Det Norske Teateret. Are Kalvø has put it into Norwegian. It is directed by the debutant Vidar Magnussen. A huge international success since 2011, it is now running to sold out shows in Oslo. When it was lauched on Broadway in 2011 Vogue magazine described it as "the filthiest, most offensive, and-surprise-sweetest thing you'l l see on Broadway this year, and quite possibly the funniest musical ever." The Latter Day Saint´s Church in the US officially has admitted it was fun and entertaining, although it cautiously warned the show ought not be taken to reflect the real Mormon religion. The musical still runs on Broadway, West End and other major theater venues.

The musical was originally written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of the satirical cartoon «South Park». In that cartoon religion, ethnicity and different sexual tastes were regularly ridiculed. Parker and Stone both grew up in Colorado, a hot spot for the Latter Day Saints, and so were quite familiar with their theme. The setting is not the US, but oddly enough a village in Northern Uganda. This already is a provocative hint to the militant Christian sect leader Joseph Cony, namesake of the Latter Day Saint´s Church founder Joseph Smith. In this Ugandan village two young Mormon missionaries have been deployed. The first one, Price, is an exemplary youth Mormon: knowledgable, eager and adept with a true missonary mindset. The other one, Cunningham, is akward, childish and more interested in «Star Wars» than in the scriptures. He constantly tries to mix the two as spiritual guides.

With this odd team duly in place, the aim is to instruct the villagers regarding their problems according to the book of Mormon. However, the local problems soon become more challenging. The villlage is haunted by AIDS, hunger, war and summary executions. The musicial makes much ridicule of the Mormon´s forced optimistic pragmatism, combining obliquely with their sin-ridden world view. For example, in the beginning Price believes that constant prayer will help him be sent to Florida for his missionary service. Yet he ends up in Uganda. The missionary conceit is slyly made fun of in the song «I am Africa». Childish Cunningham manages to rise in prestige among the villagers with his own Gospel combining Darth Vader, the Hobbit and the Holy Book. Yet the ridicule is not maliscious and a certain fondness for the Mormons earnestness is retained.

The musical works well in Norwegian (Nynorsk), and has received raving reviews in the Norwegian press. Thus equating the international reception since 2011. Among the actors we meet Frank Kjoås as Price, Kristoffer Olsen as Cunningham and Anette Amelia Hoff Larsen as his exotic love object, Nabulungi.

- Jørgen Flatabø