Arts Reviews

“The Laughs Are Still Coming Thick And Fast”- Theatre Review: The Book Of Mormon @ Theatre Royal

Kit Sinclair

The Book of Mormon is a musical comedy, first staged in 2011. It is a satirical look at the practices and beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Currently on tour across the U.K., the production arrived in Nottingham in August, and will run until 10th September, with evening and matinée performances. Impact’s Kit Sinclair reviews.

In the darkness, a doorbell rings. Then, “Hello!”, sings a young, smartly dressed and fresh faced man to a packed auditorium at the Theatre Royal. He offers us all a free book about a flash new religion called Mormonism, but no one takes him up on his offer. Nevertheless, I imagine he gets a much friendlier reception from us than many of his real life counterparts do.

This is, of course, The Book of Mormon, the smash hit musical that’s made its way to the Nottingham stage as part of its UK tour. Now in its 11th year (ninth in the UK), the shock factor may have worn off, but the laughs are still coming thick and fast. The writers are Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of South Park, as well as Robert Lopez, whose previous musical, Avenue Q, was described as “Friends…but with more angst, expletives and full-on puppet sex.”

Hard not to wonder if I’d accidentally walked into a comedy set

It’s no surprise that this is not a show for children. I was worried that after all its years on stage it would struggle to live up to its title as “the funniest musical of all time”. Wondrously, the (very adult) humour still works well, and had the audience laughing consistently – were it not for the pyrotechnics and disco balls, it would have been hard not to wonder if I’d accidentally walked into a comedy set. Although some of the jokes feel a little dated after over a decade, there are some more modern references neatly woven in to keep things fresh.

Most importantly, despite the writers’ reputations for off-colour comedy, the humour never feels mean spirited. The writing swings from clever to downright farcical, but there are certainly no cheap shots. By the time the climax of the show rolls around, the plot has veered so firmly into surreality that it’s hard to tell who’s being made fun of any more.

It’s not just a comedy show, however. The songs are catchy and the choreography is tight, especially in the various jazz numbers by the Mormon missionaries. The ensemble cast is excellent – some of them have a lot of different jobs to do (hell demon one minute, misguided missionary the next) and they pull them all off seamlessly.

Bizarre shenanigans ensue

The plot centres around two young missionaries – Elder Price, the golden child, and Elder Cunningham, his scruffier and more hapless mission companion. They are unwillingly shipped off to a mission in Uganda, where bizarre shenanigans ensue as they attempt to convert the local population. Darth Vader appears at one point, along with a warlord named General Butt F***ing Naked. Yes, you did read that right.

Conner Peirson as Elder Cunningham steals the show as the geeky Mormon who can’t quite get his scriptures right. His mannerisms are excellent and he elevates every scene he is in. He’s given a run for his money by Jordan Lee Davies as Elder McKinley, who’s finding it difficult to clamp down on his effeminate tendencies, especially during the kick lines.

Aviva Tulley as Nabulungi sings with a beautiful innocence, which she hilariously cans during her raunchy duo with Elder Cunningham (possibly my highlight of the show). Robert Colvin as Elder Price is perhaps the weakest of the main cast – it was noticeable during I Believe that his heart perhaps wasn’t as in it as the script called for – but he pulls off Price’s indifferent arrogance well.

Directed by Casey Nicholaw and with musical direction by Colm O’Regan, this is a slick production with very few weak links. Seize the opportunity to see this global spectacle on our local stage while you have the chance.

Kit Sinclair

Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.

In-article images courtesy of Theatre Royal Nottingham. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this images.

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