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. Audiences walking into the Palace theatre are likely prepared for a jaw-droppingly offensive musical poking fun at the Mormon churches dedicated followers, but many will walk out true believers of Elder Cunningham's philosophy.
The show 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 the unknown language of gods golden plated followings, but the show is mainly fashioned around its playful takedown of other popular stage musicals. Its uncomplicated message riddled with bright and bouncy tracks appears to organically emerge from peculiar, yet honest moments that take on the oblivious humans who sit on and off the stage. Including many inconvenient truths and rewritten revivals of questionable classic musicals, the show 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 (Kevin Clay) and Elder Cunningham (Conner Peirson) in a more taxing vision 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. Juxtaposing this with a light history of the Mormon church and the team of missionaries who hope to gather enough baptisms to impress their leader, the show approaches their challenge with naive optimism.
Despite its purposefully cringeworthy white saviour storyline, the productions fantastically large and diverse ensemble cast allows the beautiful vocals of Nicole-Lily Baisden (Nabulungi) and the hilarious Ewen Cummins (Mafala Hatimbi) to shine at the forefront with songs including Hasa Diga Eebowai and Sal Tlay Ka Siti.
The whole new world presented to the Mormons is influenced by the more 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 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.