Review: The Book of Mormon @ Palace Theatre, Manchester

This is no bible-bashing gospel play! From missionaries in pink sequin jackets to Darth Vader and Yoda, The Book of Mormon is pure musical chaos – but it’s absolute genius at the same time.

The Broadway hit has smashed it on the West End and it’s now ready to ‘break’ Manchester with its irresistibly energetic musical numbers and grippingly far-fetched storyline.

Now showing at the Palace Theatre, the story follows the journey of Salt Lake City’s finest Mormon youth and his incapable hilarious partner, who are sent to Uganda to convert a village of ‘F*ck you, God’-screaming atheists.

The musical’s opening number Hello! set the tone for the night, with grinning, black-tie-and-white-shirt-wearing elders practicing their door knocking technique with perfect timing.

Tap dancing, cabaret – these Mormons showed the audience just what they’ve got in the campest fashion possible, forming the hilarious irony of their anti-gay beliefs.

When Elder Price (Kevin Clay) and Elder Cunningham (Conner Peirson) are sent to Uganda, the set is quickly transformed from an air terminal to an African village complete with huts.

The set is exactly the same as it is on the West End, and that’s a real plus considering lots of shows suffer when they hit the road with a lower budget.

We’re introduced to the Ugandan villagers through Hasa Diga Eebowai, translated to mean ‘Fuck you, God’. Think Hakuna Matata, but more F words and AIDS-based gags.

The villagers are down on their luck and are under threat by a Joseph Kony-esque warlord called General Butt F**king Naked, who is threatening genital mutilation on the village’s women.

The mixture of such a serious issue and that name is typical of The Book of Mormon and gives the musical such a unique charm.

No taboo subject is off the table, exemplified when the seemingly hopeless Cunningham can’t get Nabulungi’s name right and calls her everything from Nutella to Nigel Farage.

Peirson plays his role with the exact level of energy required to make the character both infectious and endearing.

One audience member even commented that he played Elder Cunningham better than the actor she’d seen play him on the West End.

The constant bombardment of immature one-liners has the audience giggling away like they were back in high school, and it leaves them hanging on every word.

Nicole-Lily Baisden, who plays Nabulungi, hits all the right notes when she provides a welcome break from the madness through Sal Tlay Ka Siti.

Her touching solo expresses the character’s desire to reach the paradise of Salt Lake City that Price and Cunningham have sold to her.

The story of The Book of Mormon was told through a cleverly crafted upbeat narration, with an LED-lit Jesus and co cornily acting it out, keeping the mood upbeat.

Those characters picking logical holes in the story is also a clever touch, but the villagers aren’t as pleased as the audience, leaving Elder Price out of ideas but Elder Cunningham ready to come into his own.

The lies that ensue see even Yoda and Darth Vader enter the story to win the villagers over, much to the hilarity of the stalls.

After requesting a transfer, Elder Price’s dream sequence saw the devil himself appear, along with Adolf Hitler and Ghengis Khan.

I never expected to write those four names two in successive paragraphs, but nobody can prepare you for the madness of this section!

Despite the unexpected lie-spinning, the all-singing, all-dancing chaos was well choreographed, fluid and tightly timed.

Baptise me is also an audience favourite, with the musical cleverly drawing parallels between a couple first having sex and, in this case, Cunningham doing his first baptism on Nabulungi.

The hilarity continues when Price tries to redeem himself for abandoning his partner by converting the fearsome general to the church.

He holds his hand and sings I Believe, but that ends with the famous book being shoved where the Ugandan sun doesn’t shine, literally.

When villagers re-told the twisted tail they’d heard from Cunningham in front of the mission president, it reaffirmed just how off-piste the teachings had gotten, and it’s great to see the president’s baffled reaction on stage right mirror the audience’s.

Ending the performance with the villagers dressed as Mormons, knocking on doors before singing Tomorrow is a Latter Day is a perfect way to wrap up the whirlwind of a show.

Its lack of political correctness in the name of comedy was refreshing, its songs and actors fittingly energetic, and it certainly lived up to the high expectations it carries.

The Book of Mormon is a must-see whether you’re a regular theatre-goer or not. Where else could you get Yoda, camp Mormons, Hitler and a warlord called General Butt F*cking naked?

*The Book of Mormon is showing at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until Saturday, August 24. You can buy tickets HERE.

Related Articles