The Book of Mormon Review | Palace Theatre | Manchester
In true Stone/Trey fashion, a musical focusing on the secretive Mormon religion, based within an exploited region of Uganda promises to be a salacious production made to produce shudders of laughter and winces of shame. Audiences walking into the Palace theatre are likely prepared for a jaw-dropping musical poking fun at the Mormon churches dedicated followers, but many will walk out true believers of Elder Cunningham's philosophy.
The Book of Mormon is a sweet representation of the intense, two year sacrifice the teenage missionaries embrace as part of their duty to serve God. Glowing with positivity, it makes sure to poke fun of its founder Joseph Smith, who claims an angel descended onto him an unknown language for reading gods golden plated scripture. However, the shows other allure for theatre goers will be its spirited takedown of other popular stage musicals. Its uncomplicated message riddled with bright and bouncy tracks appears to organically emerge from honest moments that take on the oblivious humans who sit on and off the stage. Fashioned around dismantling many inconvenient truths the shows rewritten revivals of questionable classic musicals plots ensures it makes fun of all involved.
Written by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone, the show immerses the bubbly Mormon duo Elder Price (Robert Colvin) and Elder Cunningham (Conner Peirson) in the most taxing image of Africa ever portrayed on stage. Its production directed by Casey Nicholaw and Parker transports the Palace theatre with brown sheeted staging, dilapidated shacks and browbeaten villagers but juxtaposes this with a light history of the Mormon church and a team of missionaries who hope to gather enough baptisms to impress their leader.
As the show approaches their challenge with naive optimism and harmonious choreography, the stories purposefully cringeworthy white saviour storyline shapes the tales most unscrupulous scenes and unexpected soundtrack. Mixing traditional 50’s tracks and Gene Kelly choreography with not so traditional African’s tunefully cursing out God, Price and Cunningham take audiences through a relentlessly joyful search for love and purpose.
The productions superbly packed and diverse ensemble cast allows the beautiful vocals of Aviva Tulley (Nabulungi) and the hilarious Ewen Cummins (Mafala Hatimbi) to shine at the forefront with songs including Hasa Diga Eebowai (which translates to F**K You God) and Sal Tlay Ka Siti (A.K.A Salt Lake City).
Despite the show creator’s history of offensive takes on topics, The Book of Mormon remains a layered and charming production and is crafted out of love. The whole new world presented to the Mormons is influenced by playful moments in classic musicals. From its Lion King send off to the morphed Joseph Smith American Moses Uganda retelling that mirrors The Small House of Uncle Thomas from The King and I.
Teaming these moments with songs such as Turn It Off makes the show boundlessly entertaining on multiple levels. Around a circus of choreography that sees the Mormons literally tap dancing around serious issues, the show ensures it serves its mission of keeping its audience engaged with a modern classic that manages to fuse vintage musical appeal with a trigger warning.
Tickets are available via the ATG link