After breaking records and scooping up awards in almost every category, there’s – unsurprisingly – a lot of hype surrounding the South Park-esque musical. Controversial and comical, the show has been a cavalcade since it first opened on Broadway in 2011. But now in Manchester, eight years on, many wondered whether the play would still hold up. The raucous laughter, standing ovations and upbeat atmosphere in the auditoria of the Palace Theatre, Manchester strongly suggested it has. Continue reading our review for The Book of Mormon to find out why.
Looking back, the first few scenes were a gentle introduction of what was to come. It kicks off with the musical number ‘Hello’, mildly mocking the practice of Mormon Elders sent to knock on doors to introduce people to the Book. For anyone not too familiar with Mormonism, the musical actually gives an overview of the faith and its practices, albeit a fairly skewed one infused with parody.
But the tongue-in-cheek humour quickly evolves into outright onslaught at everyone of every background about everything. Soon, audiences faced gibes at not only religion, but female mutilation, homophobia, characters based on real warlords, disease, famine, racism, and more. It continued to unfold crude, running jokes throughout the show, such as references to The Lion King when depicting Africa and ‘Elder Cunningham’s’ inability to recall ‘Nabulungi’s’ name (referring to her as ‘Neutrogena’, ‘Nutella’ and later ‘Nigel Farage’).
However, rather than feeling wounded, The Book of Mormon shrewdly leaves audiences whitewashing the normally offensive jokes and pokes. It’s as though their disparagement of the religious, women, Africans, Chinese, homosexuals, etc. is so encompassing it feels almost inclusive. The luminous way in which the creators combine stereotyping and stupidity in their book and score makes you feel it’s actually ignorant people at the butt of the joke, rather than Mormons and women and so on.
Perhaps this is why everyone is dying to see The Book of Mormon again. The fast pace of the show and its ceaseless comedy has audiences laughing for the entire two hours. This means that many theatre-goers missed some of the jokes from still crowing over the former ones. So they’re insistent on going back to catch all them all. Simply put, The Book of Mormon is that funny it has people wanting to return to the theatre straight away.
Looking around the Palace Theatre, it’s also apparent that The Book of Mormon establishes a new kind of audience. Similarly to American Idiot, the two shows have such mass appeal that they reach further than traditional shows. The Manchester crowd was full of men and women across generations, with everyone equally cracking up.
It’s also worth pointing out in this review that the cast for The Book of Mormon are as talented as they come. Kevin Clay (Elder Price) and Conner Peirson (Elder Cunningham) were truly extraordinary, continuously keeping energy levels high. Nicole-Lily Baisden (Nabulungi) also mastered her performance. She impeccably balanced an innocent and rebellious spirit in Nubulungi, leaving us howling in the raunchy ‘Baptism’ scene with Peirson.
But perhaps the scene that stole the show was the ‘Turn it Off’ sequence. The group of Elders lead by Will Hawksworth (Elder McKinley) were immaculate. Their faces full of humorous expressions and perfecting the choreography to a T. This was closely followed by their ‘spooky hell dream’ scene which had a Tenacious-D meets South Park flair.
Overall, The Book of Mormon surprised me. It was not the controversy or the boldness of its themes, which after reading reviews of The Book of Mormon you’ll no doubt know beforehand. Rather, it was the relentlessness and consistency of its jokes and the unforgettable characters. Each scene and each role was executed flawlessly, leaving theatre-goers on a high as they exited the Palace.
For anyone still unsure of whether the show is worth the hype, book tickets to see the Book of Mormon now and find out!