The Book of Mormon first premiered in 2011 on Broadway. Audiences went wild for the show and New York critics claimed it was ‘the best musical of this century’. So logically, it transferred to the West End where it has stayed for six consecutive years. But theatre fans across the UK can now count their blessings, as the renowned and provocative musical will grace theatres around the nation for the first time, following a mega 33-night run in Manchester.
Curious to find out more about the sensational satire? From creators to characters and tour dates to tickets, we’ve got you covered. The devil’s in the details so here’s everything you to need to know about The Book of Mormon musical on tour.
A brief history of The Book of Mormon show
The celebrated musical united the creative talents of adult animation ‘South Park’ and hit musical ‘Avenue Q’. Trey Parker and Matt Stone transferred their quick quips, mockery and tongue-in-cheek humour to stage, joining forces with Robert Lopez, who not only has extensive experience creating musicals, but is the man behind many signature songs for Disney/Pixar animations like Winnie the Pooh, Coco, and the award-winning ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen. The finished product; a hilarious, clever and at times, obscene, comedy with a stellar soundtrack.
The trio came together when Parker and Stone sought insight for their new film ‘Team America’. They were advised to watch Lopez’s puppet musical, ‘Avenue Q’, and were consequently introduced to Lopez at the showing. The team quickly began working on ideas surrounding Mormonism, travelling to Salt Lake City to research ex-missionaries. The story and songs brewed from here, blossoming into a stage sensation on both Broadway and the West End.
Known for its somewhat offensive jokes and parodies, South Park’s creators use their controversial flair to tackle the theme of religion, telling the tale of two young Mormons on a mission to spread the word. Surprisingly, The Book of Mormon musical was met with worldwide praise, even selling out shows in the epicenter of Mormonism; Salt Lake City, which the Guardian’s Stephanie Van Schilt describes as ‘truly a stamp of approval’.
So what’s all the fuss about?
Book of Mormon plot overview – Warning! *Spoiler Alert*
Passionate Elder, Kevin Price, kickstarts the show by giving classmates at the Latter-Day-Saints Church Missionary Training Center a demonstration of how to bring people to the Mormon faith by knocking on doors. Price believes he will be sent to Orlando, Florida to complete his two-year mission, but feels let down by God upon discovering he and compulsive liar, Elder Arnold Cunningham will be sent together to a remote Ugandan village instead.
Arriving in Uganda, Price and Cunningham immediately encounter harsh realities and unfavourable circumstances. From being robbed, to the village’s poor living conditions, to the warlord General Butt F**king Naked calling for female circumcision of inhabitants, their mission suddenly seems impossible. Furthermore, no Elder stationed there has managed to convert a single Ugandan villager – even district leader Elder McKinley, who is battling his own ‘demons’ by trying to suppress his homosexuality. Feeling disheartened about his mission, Price temporarily fleas to Orlando and leaves Cunningham to step up and take charge. Along the way, they encounter the sweet and innocent Nabulungi and her father, village leader Mafala.
The story twists and turns as we witness the lead characters transform. Price, full of high-expectations and devotion to his beliefs suddenly witnesses a fleeting lapse in faith, while the insecure Cunningham morphs into a strong-willed leader. To complete their mission and get Ugandans to listen to them, the mismatched pair must come together to defeat the murderous General.
Intertwining epic musical and dance numbers with bold choices of delicate content related to religion, AIDS, poverty, homosexuality, female genital mutilation and Africa parodied with Disney’s ‘The Lion King’; The Book of Mormon is a show that provokes, shocks and above all entertains its audiences.
Book of Mormon’s central characters
Elder Kevin Price (Lead)
Starting out as a perfect ‘all-American prophet’ full of hope and gumption, Price is the one you think will succeed. He is fresh-faced and driven, arguably portraying the polar opposite of his mission partner, Cunningham. He appears before audiences as very self-assured and arrogant, but once thrown off course by unanticipated events in Uganda, we observe his more naive and vulnerable side. While embarking on his spiritual journey, Price appeals more to audiences through becoming much more relatable.
Elder Arnold Cunningham (Lead)
Perhaps the ‘underdog’ of the story, Cunningham is first depicted as insecure, a pathological liar and slightly nerdish (using The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars in his teachings having not actually read the Book of Mormon). But he quickly steps out of wingman position when called upon, embodying a more confident, independent persona. The story nurtures his character to allow audiences to witness a complete coming-of-age, as he steps out of Price’s shadow and into the limelight.
Elder McKinley (Support)
McKinley is the leader of Mormon Elders stationed in the village. He struggles with quashing his homosexuality, where the show hints at McKinley having a crush on Price and he delivers a musical number ‘Turn It Off’ about shutting down ‘sinful’ feelings. The song is colourfully brought to life in what is arguably McKinley’s standout scene, with tap dancing and sparkly costumes. We learn he is a complex character with a troubled past, but also migrates towards self-acceptance throughout the show.
Nabulungi is the first Ugandan villager to show interest in the Mormon faith. She is sweet, friendly and highly idealistic, which leads to her intrigue in the promises brought forward by the Elders. Her demeanour draws in Cunningham, who first mumbles awkwardly and can never remember her name, but later gains confidence in promoting his beliefs to her. Nabulungi is wide-eyed to his words, and quickly builds a special bond with him.
Mafala Hatimbi (Support)
The protective father of Nabulungi and leader of the village, Hatimbi is a likeable character – particularly in the way he adores his daughter. Despite suffering from AIDS, Hatimbi remains upbeat and positive, carrying on with his responsibilities without complaining. Not easily persuaded into Mormonism, he chants the infamous phrase ‘Hasa Diga Eebowai’ (cursing God) and breaks out into the show’s most iconic song.
General Butt – F*%king Naked (Support)
The leading antagonist in this tale of spirited belief and controversy, the character is based upon Joshua Milton Blahyi (General Butt Naked) who operated under Liberian warlord Roosevelt Johnson. Interestingly, Blahyi went from a violent, fearsome oppressor responsible for the death of thousands to a Christian pastor, however this is not how The Book of Mormon character is played out in the musical.
Book of Mormon’s musical numbers
The Book of Mormon is best known for its controversy and music. This doesn’t come as too much surprise given Lopez’s track record in creating hit songs, where his expertise lead to the musical winning a Tony Award for ‘Best Original Score’ and Grammy Award for ‘Best Musical Theater Album’.
Some of the show’s most noteworthy numbers include ‘Turn It Off’ (McKinley and Missionaries), ‘Hasa Diga Eebowai’ (Mafala, Price, Cunningham and Ugandans), ‘I Believe’ (Price), ‘You and Me’ (But Mostly Me) (Price and Cunningham), and ‘Sal Tlay Ka Siti’ (Nabulungi). ‘Hasa Diga Eebowai’ is perhaps the most offensive and satirical where Ugandan villagers are melodically cursing God, yet is often one of the most popular across fan forums.
Have a listen below to ‘I Believe’ performed by Andrew Rannells on Broadway:
Famous quotes from The Book of Mormon
It wouldn’t be the work of Parker and Stone without infamous one-liners and quintessentially sardonic quotes. Here are some to give you a flavour of what to expect:
“God never said ‘nutin’ bout no clitoris!” (Gotswana)
“Imagine that your brain is made of tiny boxes, and find the box that’s gay and CRUSH IT!” (McKinley)
“He didn’t come from the Middle East, like those other holy men! No, God’s favourite prophet was..All-American!” (Price)
“We’ve had no rain in several days! Hasa Diga Eebowai! And 80% of us have AIDS! Hasa Diga Eebowai!” (Ugandans; Mafala)
“Jesus knew he had to man up!” (Cunningham)
“Go flick; it’s a nifty little Mormon trick” (Mormon boys)
Still need to know more? Check out the theatre reviews from the London production.
Book of Mormon reviews on the West End
Fresh off the boat of Broadway, the reception of The Book of Mormon in the West End saw endured success. In 2013, the musical transferred to the Prince of Wales Theatre in London and broke records for the biggest day of West End sales. Some initial reviews saw a hesitant approach, given the show’s central themes, but ultimately sang its praise. London Theatre’s Peter Brown applauded it for being ‘enormously enjoyable’ and having the potential to be ‘the stuff of legend’. The Guardian’s Euan Ferguson drew attention to its ‘punchingly-good music’ and ‘bright, fierce, challenging and unashaminedy scatological’ story. And despite giving it a mixed review, The Telegraph’s Charles Spencer remained full of praise, describing it as ‘damnably clever and sharp’ with a production that is ‘stylishly and wittily designed’. The BBC ultimately reported is was well-received by critics on the whole, singing from the same hymn sheet on the show’s unique value in the theatre world.
Interestingly, many reviews alluded to the tolerance of the show towards Mormonism. Ferguson wrote that The Book of Mormon sent enraptured audiences home with a sense to really like Mormons (The Guardian). Tim Masters of The BBC reported that senior spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints, Elder Clifford Herbertson, believed the show was not necessarily educative or helpful for people’s understanding of the faith, but would raise awareness through its entertainment value.
Of course, not all share this view, which likely adds to the musical’s controversial character. However The Book of Mormon has certainly made its mark in the world of entertainment, scooping up a whole host of awards.
Awards the Book of Mormon has won
Here are some of the awards The Book of Mormon Musical has won over the years…and these aren’t even all of them!
(2011 – Broadway)
|Best Book of a Musical|
|Best Original Score|
|Best Featured Actress in a Musical|
|Best Direction of a Musical|
|Best Scenic Design|
|Best Lighting Design|
|Best Sound Design|
|Drama Desk Award |
(2011 – Broadway)
|Outstanding Director of a Musical|
|Grammy Award |
(2012 – Broadway)
|Best Musical Theatre Album|
|Evening Standard Award |
(2013 – West End)
|Best Night Out|
|Laurence Olivier Award |
(2014 – West End)
|Best New Musical|
|Best Actor in a Musical|
|Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical|
|Best Theatre Choreographer|
|Whatsonstage.com Awards |
(2014 – West End)
|Best New Musical|
|Best Actor in a Musical|
|Best Supporting Actor in a Musical|
|Best Supporting Actress in a Musical|
Where is it going on tour?
Performances will be taking place at the Palace Theatre, Manchester from 6th June 2019 – 24th August (Mondays-Saturdays) . Tickets for the Book of Mormon Manchester are available here.
You can also catch the show in Sunderland at the Empire from August 28th, with more locations hopefully along the way! If you want to get notified should they announce thing new, make sure to follow them here:
How long is the show?
The musical is 2 hours 20 minutes, which includes an interval.
Can I take children?
There are no strict age limitations at the Palace Theatre, however given the crude nature of the show and explicit language, parental guidance is compulsory. In London, The Prince of Wales Theatre has an age limit of 17 years and up.
How can I get tickets?
Tickets for the Manchester show are available now. You can easily find and compare available tickets through TickX, or follow the Book of Mormon UK Touring to get alerts for ticket releases.
So, do you think you know the Book of Mormon now? Why not take the quiz and find out whether you’re more of an Elder Price or an Elder Cunningham…