THE BOOK OF MORMON Finally shocking Perth

Undoubtedly one of the most eagerly anticipated shows to tour Perth in recent history, multiple award-winning musical The Book of Mormon opens at Crown Theatre on Tuesday, September 3. Written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park) with Robert Lopez (Avenue Q), this satirical musical is renowned for being offensive throughout but with a message of love at its heart. NATALIE GILES sat down with the two leads, Blake Bowden (pictured centre) playing Elder Price and Nyk Bielak (pictured right) who plays Elder Cunningham, ahead of the tour’s arrival.

So why has it taken The Book of Mormon two years since arriving in Australia to grace Perth? I mean, it’s a long way across the desert, but a two-year biblical exodus it is not…

Blake: Hey, look, traditionally it’s taken a long time for any musical to make it over from Sydney and Melbourne due to pure population size and so on to come here, but we’re super excited to come to Perth and the show will do great here and people will really love it…

Nyk: I agree though! Why has it taken us so long? It’s bullshit. It’s just… yeah, it’s DUMB!

Blake: Ok, yeah, you hit it first, it’s dumb!

You guys just wait, Perth audiences are a whole lot of fun. And you’d know that Blake, you’ve been here before…

Blake: Well, yeah, I’ve been here before and I always have a great time, but it’s always just so much fun to take this particular show to any new audience because the shock value is so nice on a fresh city so we look forward to that.

That shock value is obviously a big part of the show as the self-touted equal opportunity offending musical. But have you ever had anyone walk out?

Nyk: I saw one walk out on Sunday, but it’s pretty rare. Look, I think that for you to be offended by the show it would mostly be about the language or if you don’t want to hear people talking about this kind of subject matter. But we’re not condoning any illicit or terrible behaviour, we’re not trying to incite anything awful. I think what this show does is shine a light on some very ugly truths about humanity and people generally want to sweep that stuff under the rug. And that’s something that Matt and Trey go “No, let’s talk about it. We need to talk about it.”

Blake: Sometimes it’s really helpful to laugh about it too. It pokes fun at a lot of things – nothing is really off the table. It’s making fun of a lot of aspects of humanity and society and our culture.

Nyk: It’s not malicious or mean. And we’re not mocking anyone’s religion as such, it doesn’t really take a stance one way or another in regards to being pro or anti-religion. At the end of the day, it’s a beautiful story about two unlikely friends who come together and try to help a community out. That’s the way we see it anyway. Plus there’s a sprinkling of fart jokes.

Well, they are the kings of fart jokes. Are Matt and Trey very hands-on? 

Blake: Absolutely, they’re super supportive. They’re both really clever and they know the piece so well and are still really passionate about it. They want every show to be the best that it can be.

Nyk: Trey is very quiet but they’re such lovely guys.

And are you South Park fans?

Blake: I grew up watching it as a kid and it was really shocking and it felt really naughty to watch it as a kid each week on SBS.

Nyk: I haven’t watched it all the way through, and it’s probably something I should go back to and watch from the beginning.

I feel like it should be a contractual obligation! So which South Park character would you be?

[both pause]

Blake: You know, we’ve never been asked that ever! I actually need to think about it.

Nyk: Elder Cunningham is obviously Cartman because he’s big and stuff…

Blake: I think I’d be Kyle. I always found him charming as a kid, and he always had something to say, and I was that kid.

Nyk: Oh, you meant me, not my character! Damn, I guess I’d still be Cartman!

So Nyk, you’ve obviously come from years on Broadway with the show. Are we getting the same quality of performance and that Broadway-level experience in Australia?

Nyk: Yeah, absolutely. I’m incredibly proud of the work we do and that this ensemble does. They’re definitely some of the hardest-working kids I’ve ever met in my life. Blake and I are still trying to find ways to tighten up the show with every performance, and we hold each other to a certain standard, and I think that really bleeds out into the rest of the company. We all have high expectations of each other.

Last question – what’s your favourite number? Not one of your own songs necessarily, favourite out of the whole show?

Blake: That’s a really tough question because it changes with each show.

Nyk: I love Man Up, which is my own song because it’s my big act one closer, but I love watching Blake sing I Believe, which is a really extraordinary song. Watching the boys do Turn It Off is hilarious.

Blake: Oh, definitely. I love that one. But then Latter Day, which closes the show, is brilliant too. It’s a really hard question. I know it seems like a clichéd answer.

Nyk: I think she’s not going to be happy with it. Quick, you have to pick one!

Correct. Have you seen the size of me? You’ll have to go through me to leave!

Blake: [laughs] Well jeez, then I’d have to say I Believe, and that’s because I get to sing it but it feels good to sing. It fills me up, and it’s funny, but it’s also just a great song. You leave the theatre singing it and humming it.

Nyk: And I’m going to say Man Up, because I get to feel like a rock star on stage. I get to live out all my pop-rock idol dreams.