Created by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creative driving forces behind South Park, The Book of Mormon premiered on Broadway in 2011, and went on to gather critical acclaim, awards and incredible audience receptions. It first came to the UK in 2013, and this week I finally went to see what all the fuss was about. The tickets were £50 for the cheapest seats, so more expensive than a lot of other West End shows, but after seeing the production, it really is worth paying for.
Regarding the plot, I don’t want to give too much away, but the basic story follows two young adult Mormon missionaries who are sent to Africa to spread the word of The Church of Jesus Christ of The Latter-Day Saints. However, they quickly find that the people of the village they arrive in aren’t exactly enthused by their Lord and message…
The most obvious thing to point out is that the whole show was absolutely laugh-out-loud funny. Full stop. I’ve definitely never laughed so much at a stage performance in my life. As well as being hilarious thought, The Book of Mormon crosses a variety of emotions and styles, from the all-out-camp-weirdness of Spooky Mormon Hell Dream (my stand-out favourite scene) to the poignant and aspirational Sal Tlay Ka Siti.
Despite being an often-ridiculous comedy musical by the creators of one of the silliest shows on TV, The Book of Mormon is definitely an incredibly well executed show with a highly able and talented cast. The performers are all absolutely fantastic – high energy, and able to keep dancing, singing and acting in check at once – something particularly reflected in the groups of Mormon Elders. Although the costumes are identical, each performer manages to bring out a whole different character to each Elder, which gives the performance real depth and dimension – it’s definitely not just an evening of song and dance. The contrast between the attitudes of the Elders and the Africans is very bold and obvious, right from the costumes down to the language, delivery and behaviours.
Digging deeper behind Stone and Parker’s South Park, the show actually does deal with interesting concepts and current issues in a comedic way, and The Book Of Mormon continues these theme. Yes, on the surface it seems to take the piss a bit – but in essence, the majority of the Mormon and African characters are likeable, warm and fully-developed characters, which takes it away from the two dimensional mocking character delivery that could easily have been done with such a subject matter.
One thing (among many) that really struck me was the quality of the sets, they were really well put together and the slick scene changes and setpiece moves showed just how high production values were for the show. The lighting, costumes and music were all absolutely bang on point, really showing the talent and quality of the creative team behind the show. It’s a perfect example of taking silliness incredibly seriously.
Generally, when it comes to theatre, I’m okay with just seeing a show once. But I’m already itching to see The Book of Mormon again…and again. And if you haven’t seen it (and don’t find South Park-esque humour offensive), YOU JUST HAVE TO GO. And I’ll come with you. Again. And again.
Have you seen The Book of Mormon?