There was a certain sense of expectation before watching The Book of Mormon as the soundtrack is known for its witty, unique songs and the show – which was first staged in 2011 – is considered to be one of the funniest musicals in recent years.
It certainly lived up to those expectations and then some on the opening night of its Christmas run at the Palace Theatre.
Directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker (who is one of the original creators of the musical) the story opens with the truly hilarious song “Hello” where all the Mormons gather to demonstrate how they knock on doors to try to convert the general public to their church. Elder Price (played by Robert Colvin) is anticipating being told where he will be serving his two year mission that all young Mormons go on.
However, he is somewhat disappointed when he is told that his partner is Elder Cunningham (Conner Peirson) – who regularly tells lies and causes problems – and that they are being sent to Uganda for their mission. Peirson and Colvin bounce off each other effortlessly, singing brilliant harmonies (even while lying down for “I am here for you”) and “You and Me (but mostly me)” is a standout in the show with it’s witty lyrics and comedic timing from both characters. Props to Stephen Oremus on the Vocal arrangements in this show, which blend a more current style with a classic gospel choir sound.
The two Mormons then travel to Uganda to start converting the inhabitants but discover upon arriving that an evil General has taken over the nearby villages (Thomas Vernal) and the whole town is too terrified to stand up to him. This sets up the main plot of how Price and Cunningham spend their time in Uganda and introduces one of the other main characters Nabulungi (Aviva Tulley) who is one of the young Ugandan women. Tulley is a breath of fresh air in this production and her song “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” – despite being a funny bit all about Salt Lake City – is performed flawlessly and her clear vocals shone throughout the show.
Another stand out performer is Jordan Lee Davies playing Elder McKinley – a closeted gay man who berates himself constantly for his “sinful” thoughts. Davies leads the performance of “Turn it off” which caused huge applause and shouts of laughter throughout the audience and the tap dancing included in it is executed brilliantly with choreography by Casey Nicholaw.
There are points in the production where jokes are overly repeated to the point of becoming boring and predictable and the plot gets a little lost by the second act but this cast do a great job of bringing amazing energy to every single song and the show seems to fly by with the way scenes transition seamlessly to the next.
Scott Pask on scenic design and Brian Macdevitt on lighting design did a great job by allowing the set and lighting to elevate each moment perfectly. This stands during the song “Man Up”, where the stage turns into a mock concert venue and the multi-coloured lighting flashes in time with the beat cleverly.
Book of Mormon is full of crude language throughout, is definitely not appropriate for children and includes some jokes that could be considered to push the taste boundaries over the edge, especially today. But it is also performed outstandingly well, with each cast member bringing their own flair to the performance and it is a truly satirical experience throughout. Take it all with a pinch of salt and it will go down a treat!
The Book of Mormon is at The Palace Theatre, Manchester from 8 December 2021 to 1 January 2022.