REVIEW: THE BOOK OF MORMON (Sunderland Empire) ★★★★★
August 31, 2019  //  By:   //  Musicals, Reviews  //  Comments are off

Written by the team behind South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, with Avenue Q’s Robert Lopez, The Book Of Mormon says “Hello” to Sunderland Empire as part of its first UK tour.

The Book of Mormon follows two contrasting young Mormon missionaries – the confident, self-absorbed Elder Price, and the bumbling, insecure Elder Cunningham – who complete their training at the Missionary Training Centre and are sent to preach the Mormon religion in a remote Ugandan village. Kevin Clay is in sensational winning form as the smug Elder Price. He sings with style and warmth and his comic timing is excellent. Jacob Yarlett is wonderful, in every way, as the nerdy Elder Cunningham who converts an African tribe to his own mish-mash of the Mormon story.

On arriving they are quickly introduced to the oppressed locals, brutal conditions and fellow US missionaries who have so far failed to baptise a single member of a community, more concerned with battling AIDS and famine, and appeasing the local warlord (General Butt-F**king Naked – the hysterical Thomas Vernal, especially at the end when he becomes Elder Butt-F**king Naked) who seems intent on mutilating the locals.

Will Hawksworth shines as the tortured Elder McKinley, struggling to repress his inner self. Who advises to “Turn it Off” – the singing and terrific dancing of the Elders is brilliantly funny. They are all an absolute joy to watch. Nicole-Lily Baisden is fabulous as the innocent Nabulungi (although Elder Cunningham gets her name wrong every time and get a show-stopping round of applause when he calls her “No Deal Brexit”) and Ewan Cummins is sensational as her protective but cynical father, bringing the house down with the impressively foul-mouthed Hasa Diga Eebowai. However it is Tre-Copeland Williams who steals every scene as the village Doctor who has maggots in his scrotum.

This award winning production has outstanding choreography by Casey Nicholaw – the tap dancing Elders was inspired. Stephen Oremus gives musical supervision to the lyrics and music of Parker, Stone and Lopez. Including the brilliant I Believe, Making It Up Again, You and Me (But Mostly Me) and Tomorrow is a Latter Day. Scott Pask’s scenic design and Ann Roth’s costumes compliment the perfection of this show.

Yes, this show is offensive, the liberal use of the swear words, poking fun at religion, Aids and poverty is probably not for the easily offended. But it’s incredibly funny and one of the best musical scores around. In Sunderland until 14 September, get a ticket while you can.

Reviewed by Susan Lindsay
Photo: Johan Persson

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