Trey Parker’s terrifically hilarious musical production The Book of Mormon, brought to London in 2013, is the perfect remedy for anyone looking for a bit of light-hearted relief or simply in need of a good laugh. And it certainly is not for children, followers of the Mormon religion or anyone of a politically correct nature.
The production takes its viewers on a voyage across the religious spectrum: presenting polar opposite characters ranging from devoted Mormon missionaries, to a Ugandan village literally singing “F**k you” to God. The two groups cross paths when two newly recruited Mormons, ambitious Elder Price (played by Dom Simpson), and his clueless nerdy partner Elder Cunningham (J. Michael Finley) are assigned Uganda, Africa, as their missionary location. But unknowingly to the optimistic pair who hope to immediately convert the villagers into followers of the Mormon religion, they encounter the irrepressible obstacle that is the community’s suffering. Famine, illness and brutal oppression (humorously described in the peculiarly upbeat number “Hasa Diga Eebowai”) is everything the village have ever known. And it is clear that a simple knock at the door and a cheesy grin (Opening number, “Hello”) isn’t quite going to do the trick.
For Elder Price, who had joined the missionary training programme in hope of fulfilling his dream of moving to Orlando, Florida, this mission is everything but enlightening. Reality hits Price when he is led to his accommodation (a mud hut) following the theft of his luggage. He is then also made to witness the shooting of a local man by the village’s tyrannical warlord ‘General Butt F**king Naked’ (Michael Moulton). The taboo doesn’t stop there.
To greet the missionary pair is the current group of Mormons in Uganda who try their best to eliminate the newbies’ fears with their hilarious song ‘Turn it off’ (suggesting that they simply turn their backs on evil). Elder McKinley (played by Steven Webb) is the lead vocal in this number, with his focus on ‘turning off’ his homosexual thoughts proving a chuckle-trigger which persists throughout the production.
Nabulungi (played by Leanne Robinson) is the production’s female protagonist whose extraordinary vocals are first showcased in ‘Sal Tlay Ka Siti’. It is this solo in which she expresses her faith in the Elders’ promise of a better future as part of the Mormon religion. Director, Parker, also reveals her pivotal role in the plot’s progression. This number is shortly followed by Elder Cunningham’s ‘School-of-Rock-esque’ rock number ‘Man Up’ where he vows to leave his nerves and incompetence behind and join Nabulungi in a quest to convince the Ugandans that conversion is the ultimate solution to their suffering.
Act 2 unforgettably opens with a quirky collaboration of all of the cast members, joined by Star Wars’ renowned characters: Darth Vader, Chewbacca and Princess Leia. This unusual concoction skillfully echoes Cunningham’s bewildering naivety in life and towards his job, whilst also foreshadowing the hilarious nature of his baptism of the village. Meanwhile, in another light, Elder Price is facing the consequences of his attempted flee from the run-down village in his “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream”; the number in which the production’s set design team truly triumph.
The remainder of the production sees the villagers gradually undergo their largely unofficial baptism and become Mormons themselves. This outcome is an unimaginable victory for the Mormon missionaries which they have Elder Cunningham’s oratory talents to thank for. More so, it is such a success that the missionary program coordinator makes a visit to the village himself, delightfully met by the most protruding moments in the show, ‘Joseph Smith American Moses’: the villagers’ own surprise recreation of the ‘Book of Mormon’. It is one of the many hilarious numbers in the show which left the audience exhausted from laughter.
The Book of Mormon holds a unique storyline which those unfamiliar to the show will struggle to anticipate. Whilst there are many aspects of the production that may be deemed inappropriate and frowned upon, it is an innovative piece of light hearted musical theatre comedy which is particularly addictive to watch. A fresh and exciting addition to the entertainment industry which I highly recommend seeing.