Melissa Brown-Taylor, Kevin Clay and Conner Peirson in The Book of Mormon, Manchester. Credit: Paul Coltas
THE BOOK OF MORMON
Palace Theatre, Manchester
Until Saturday 24th August 2019
With the West End production of The Book of Mormon still packing out houses at the Prince of Wales Theatre – which has served as its London home since first opening in February 2013 – and the Mormons now landing in Manchester for the opening leg of the show’s first ever UK tour, it is clear that Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone’s multi-award-winning extravaganza is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.
The eagerly-anticipated Manchester run is giving regional audiences a long-awaited chance to see the blockbuster show outside the capital for the very first time, and those lucky enough to already have their tickets can look forward to what proves an exceptional and impeccably performed production; those easily offended however should probably stay well clear!
Opening nights always tend to be lively affairs – particularly with a major show like The Book of Mormon – however the energy and excitement buzzing in the auditorium at last night’s riotous press performance will take some beating.
The Company of The Book of Mormon Manchester. Credit: Paul Coltas
The Book of Mormon follows two contrasting young Mormon missionaries – the confident, self-absorbed Elder Price, and the bumbling, insecure Elder Cunningham – who complete their training at the Missionary Training Centre and are sent to preach the Mormon religion in a remote Ugandan village.
On arriving they are quickly introduced to the oppressed locals, brutal conditions and fellow US missionaries who have so far failed to baptise a single member of a community more concerned with battling AIDS and famine, and appeasing the local warlord (General Butt-F**king Naked) who seems intent on mutilating the genitals of the local women.
Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker’s side-splitting production, co-directed by the pair and brilliantly choreographed by Nicholaw, is slick, polished and expertly staged, highlighting every second of eye-watering hilarity in Parker, Lopez and Stone’s controversial book. This may well be a touring production, but thankfully nothing here has been scaled down, and the big West End production values remain firmly intact.
Experienced Book of Mormon alumni Kevin Clay and Conner Peirson have been drafted in from over the pond to play Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, respectively, and their combined experience from the Broadway and North American touring productions is clear to see. The effortlessly charismatic pair are so well-versed in their respective roles and demonstrate a natural chemistry and expert comedic-flair that is a joy to watch.
Nicole-Lily Baisden as the innocent, ever-hopeful Nabulungi, Will Hawksworth as the hilarious Mormon district leader, Elder McKinley, and Ewen Cummins as Mafala Hatimbi are just a few other standouts in a flawless ensemble company.
Nicole Lily-Baisden and Conner Peirson in The Book of Mormon Manchester. Credit: Paul Coltas
Yes The Book of Mormon is risqué and unapologetically filthy, and yes it does make light of organised religion and the plausibility of the Mormon teachings – often relying on shock value to do so – but it also cleverly balances the controversial aspects with some serious messages about the positive way in which religion can unite communities and inspire people to make change, so long as the stories and teachings are taken metaphorically.
The Mormons too are also portrayed as warm and well-meaning (if a little naive), and though some of the characters do at times doubt their faith, they remain wholly optimistic that they can ultimately make a difference and bring people together.
The infectious, Tony Award-winning score boasts a host of uplifting and superbly crafted musical numbers that mostly help establish character and drive key aspects of the show, including the likes of Turn It Off, Hasa Diga Eebowai, I Believe, Sal Tlay Ka Siti, and the ingenious Hello.
Some will undoubtedly find the show too risqué and offensive, and perhaps understandably so, though for those who aren’t so easily offended, grab your self a ticket and treat yourself to one of the best shows Manchester has seen in ages!
Running Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes (approx.), including one 15-minute interval.
Final Performance at the Palace Theatre, Manchester: Saturday 24th August 2019.
For more information, and to book tickets, please Click Here.