Book, music and lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone
Anne Garefind, Scott Rudin, Important Musicals PLC, Sonia Friedman Productions and 10 others
Palace Theatre, Manchester
6 June 2019 - 24 August 2019; 2hr 20min, incl interval
So, is this the funniest musical of all time? The best musical of the 21st century? The funniest couple of hours you are likely to have anywhere this year? Those are just some of the claims made in reviews around the world - and you should see the really favourable ones.
The Book Of Mormon, from the combined creators of South Park and Avenue Q - which gives you a clue about what to expect – is in Manchester for its UK regional premiere and the official first night audience – including a large past and present Coronation Street contingent - quite clearly liked it rather a lot.
It’s taken its time getting here. It opened on Broadway in 2011 and won nine Tony Awards, followed by the London production in 2013, which won four Oliviers and is still packing ‘em in.
The story follows two young Mormons from the missionary training centre in Salt Lake City - the ambitious golden boy Elder Price (Kevin Clay) and bumbling loner Elder Cunningham (Connor Peirson).
The mismatched duo expect to be sent on a cushy mission to Florida, but instead are dispatched to a corrupt village in Uganda, charged with converting the locals. Things do not go well. They are mugged as soon as they get there, encounter a very unpleasant warlord (Thomas Vernal) and quickly learn the elders already there haven’t made a single convert.
Can the less than dynamic duo glorify their church where others have so miserably failed? Local girl Nabalungi (Nicole-Lily Baisden, great voice, charming presence) might just provide a glimmer of hope because she has influence over the village...
The mission of the show itself is to use the all-singing, all-dancing weapons of a musical to undermine the absurdities of Mormon dogma and organised religion in general, while also being rude and offensive. It’s great, provocative stuff. What other musical have you seen recently/ever that deals with war, famine, poverty, Aids, baby rape and female genital mutilation?
The score features a batch of entertaining comedy song and dance numbers that pay tribute to long and honourable Broadway traditions, all strung out along witty dialogue about the nature of belief and the function of religion. There are bits of philosophy here but don’t worry, there’s another song/joke coming along in a trice. The show overall is pretty joyful and life-affirming, which is why it’s so popular.
While it has taken its time to get here, Manchester hasn't been short-changed. The two leads played the same roles on Broadway and they give megawatt performances of the very highest order. Absolutely terrific, gentlemen, I’m utterly gobsmacked.
Set and costumes-wise it’s nothing exciting, but the choreography (Casey Nicholaw) is some of the most demanding and by far the funniest I’ve seen in any musical, ever. And it has a supporting cast that delivers the goods and then some.
You can pick the odd hole here and there. It isn’t, quite, the funniest thing you’ve ever seen, and I didn’t find it as hysterically amusing as everyone around me. But it batters you into submission and so it’s a very rare five stars from me.