07/06/19 - The Book of Mormon at the Palace Theatre

Queuing on a rainy Manchester morning may not sound like a very appealing prospect, but when there are discounted preview tickets for The Book of Mormon on offer, you’ll find people are quite happy to get a bit wet.  Although I wasn’t as eager as the first who arrived at 5am, I joined the already lengthy queue outside the Palace Theatre an hour before the box office opened.  The weather did nothing to dampen the spirits of those in line, many taking the opportunity to make friends with their neighbours and to chat with the excited cast members who had come down to mingle with the fans. 

The same palpable energy was felt again a week later when we took our seats for the show.  The packed theatre was buzzing with people eager to see the Broadway and West End smash for the first time in their own city.  The Mormons had finally arrived in Manchester.

The story follows two eager young Mormons paired together on their mission to convert the people of Uganda – Elder Price (Kevin Clay) who has plans to “do something incredible that will blow God’s freaking mind”, and Elder Cunningham (Conner Peirson); hapless, well-meaning, prone to making things up and just happy to finally have a best friend who, according to Mormon rules, can’t leave his side for the next two years.  However, when they arrive in Uganda, they find it isn’t quite as much like The Lion King as they had expected.  The villagers are not happy to see more well-meaning white preachers who do nothing to save them from their lives of poverty, famine and AIDs. This is a far cry from Salt Lake City, and the Elders are confronted with attempting to convert the disillusioned community, take on an angry warlord, and reconcile a different world view with their own understandings of their religion.

© Julieta Cervantes
Having been lucky enough to see the show in London a couple of years ago, I was interested to see how the touring production would compare and I have to say, I think I preferred the show in Manchester.  The casting was spot on with the two lead roles being performed with particular excellence.  The whole cast make everything look effortless – from the high energy choreography to the perfectly timed comedy moments.  Regardless of the fact that some of the cast have been involved in the show for many years, the energy never drops and I was captivated throughout.  Particular highlights were ‘Turn It Off’, a cheery tap number in which the young missionaries explain how they repress their dark thoughts and negative feelings, and the gloriously over-the-top rock number ‘Man Up’ as Elder Cunningham realises he needs to “grow a pair" and face up to his responsibilities…just like Jesus had to.

The Book of Mormon will not be for everyone, and I would never have thought it would be for me.  On paper, a musical penned by the creators of South Park doesn’t really sound like something that would be up my street.  But Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s typical crass humour combined with the songwriting prowess of Robert Lopez (of Avenue Q and Frozen fame) has managed to produce a show which is both uproariously funny and also has a genuinely heartwarming message about the redemptive power of faith, regardless of what form it takes.

The Book of Mormon is running at the Palace Theatre until 24th August, and tickets are available here.  There is also a lottery system in place for discounted day seats.  Even if you've seen the show before, this is definitely not to be missed!

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