Theatre Review: THE BOOK OF MORMON – Palace Theatre, Manchester

The cast in THE BOOK OF MORMON UK Tour

The cast in THE BOOK OF MORMON UK Tour. Photo Credit: Paul Coltas

 

Profane, offensive yet side-splittingly funny, THE BOOK OF MORMON is worth the hype, its buoyant and infectious score paying homage to the golden age of Broadway

5 out of 5 stars

When the producers behind THE BOOK OF MORMON announced their first UK tour was to open at Manchester’s Palace Theatre, my popularity went through the roof. Since its premiere in 2011, the hit musical has earned itself somewhat of a reputation as ‘the show to see’, breaking ticket sales records both on Broadway and in the West End and bagging an impressive nine Tony awards. Heck, even the posters pitch it as “God’s favourite musical”. But does the “most hyped show in theatre history” actually live up to the hype? The answer is yes!

Written by SOUTH PARK creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and AVENUE Q’s Robert Lopez, THE BOOK OF MORMON follows Elder Kevin Price and Elder Arnold Cunningham, a pair of mismatched Mormon missionaries who are sent to a remote Uganda village to convert the locals. The earnest young men go in hope but, once there, are challenged by the lack of interest from the villagers, who are distracted by more pressing issues such as AIDS, famine and oppression from village warlords.

Melissa Brown-Taylor, Kevin Clay and Conner Peirson in THE BOOK OF MORMON UK Tour

Melissa Brown-Taylor, Kevin Clay and Conner Peirson in THE BOOK OF MORMON. Photo Credit: Paul Coltas

It’s worth noting at this point that THE BOOK OF MORMON is not a subtle show. In fact, it’s profane, offensive and potty-mouthed – but it’s also incredibly funny. Yes, it cashes in on virtually every stereotype imaginable, from the over-eager, toothpaste-commercial smiles of the Mormons, to the outrageous LION KING-skewed view of Africa, yet it’s also damnably clever, brilliantly conceived and superbly executed.

Much of the show’s success lies in its buoyant, infectious score, with nearly every number paying homage to the golden age of Broadway. From the bright I BELIEVE, which directly parodies I HAVE CONFIDENCE from THE SOUND OF MUSIC, to JOSEPH SMITH AMERICAN MOSES, a giddy, curse-laden explanation of the Mormon founder’s trials and tribulations which is reminiscent of THE SMALL HOUSE OF UNCLE THOMAS from THE KING AND I, the musical numbers are staged with such flair and witty panache that you can’t help but sing and dance along, even if the lyrics are crass, dark and somewhat close-to-the-bone.

Nicole-Lily Baisden and Conner Peirson in THE BOOK OF MORMON

Nicole-Lily Baisden and Conner Peirson in THE BOOK OF MORMON. Photo Credit: Paul Coltas

The relatively young cast is equally excellent, Kevin Clay and Conner Peirson, in particular, standing out as Elder Price and Elder Cunningham respectively. The pair, who performed together on Broadway, have a natural chemistry, making them the perfect double act in this astonishingly savage yet sophisticated satirical affair. Elsewhere, Nicole-Lily Baisden shines as Nabulungi, the young villager first to hear the Mormon message, her sly and subversive duet BAPTIZE ME with Peirson standing out as one of the show’s highlights.

Of course, THE BOOK OF MORMON is not a show for everyone. If you can’t handle the idea of Jesus Christ “manning up” to be crucified or hate the idea of female circumcision being used as the basis for comedy, you’re best staying at home. But if you’re willing to strap in, let go and just enjoy the ride, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more fun evening at the theatre.

THE BOOK OF MORMON runs at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until 24 August 2019