Review: The Book of Mormon
Tamer than expected, despite its South Park credentials, this is still a first class musical with great gags – and, of course, rude words aplenty.
Created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (of South Park fame) and Robert Lopez (Avenue Q), The Book of Mormon has won over 30 awards, smashed box office records around the world and has now rocked up at the Bristol Hippodrome.
In terms of laughs, nothing is off limits – religion, homosexuality, race, paedophilia, genocide, female genital mutilation –in an exuberant show veering from absurdist to dark comedy. As it takes a pop at everyone and everything, it’s hard to take offence. But behind the jibes and scatological humour, it’s surprisingly open-hearted and conventional, playing toe tapping homage to Broadway’s golden age.
The story follows the naïve and misguided capers of two young Mormons – catapulted from Salt Lake City to convert the inhabitants of a Ugandan village, where houses (horror of horrors) don’t even have doorbells. In this uncomfortable clash of cultures, “Africa is nothing like the Lion King”, and the locals are contending with Aids and murderous warlords and are in no mood to be converted.
The narcissistic, preppy Elder Price (Gavin Colvin), and Elder Cummingham (Connor Peirson), his hapless and needy side-kick, are the perfect comedy duo. Funniest is Cunningham’s baptism of Nabulungi (Nicole-Lily Baisden) – played like a first sexual encounter. Each confesses coyly it’s their first time. “He will baptise me. He will hold me in his arms”/”I will baptise her. I’ll make her beg for more.” It’s the closest to a love scene you get.
Another delight is the tap dancing showpiece, where behind cheesy smiles, and camp capering, boy missionaries sing about turning off like a light switch those “pesky feelings that don’t seem right”/”Just go flick, it’s a nifty little Mormon trick”.
But although, the show pokes fun at the absurdities of religion, the take-home message is we all need something to believe in, “even if it’s just a bunch of made up stuff”.
The Book of Mormon is on at the Bristol Hippodrome until Sat 22 February, with good availability across all performances from Mon 3 February.
Bristol Hippodrome, St Augustine’s Parade, Bristol BS1 4UZ. Buy tickets
Words: Ann Dix. Photos Paul Coltas.