THE BOOK OF MORMON / WRITTEN BY: TREY PARKER, MATT STONE / STARRING: KEVIN CLAY, CONNER PIERSON / WHERE TO SEE: CLICK HERE FOR TOUR INFO
Superficially, The Book of Mormon seems to have come out of nowhere. It is, after all, a profane Broadway musical from “the South Park guys” about missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are dispatched to Uganda.
Of course, those more intimately familiar with the work of South Park’s head writer and director, Trey Parker, will connect the dots right away. Parker’s career launched with the indie film Cannibal: The Musical. South Park has a long history of both fascination with Mormons and sincere affection for musicals, and the movie spin-off Bigger, Longer & Uncut was not only nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar but hailed as one of the greatest musicals of the past 15 years by Stephen Sondheim.
A dirty secret of UK musical tours is that they often feature somewhat inferior casts when compared to the likes of Broadway and the West End. That is absolutely not the case here. Everyone involved in this particular production is outstanding. Kevin Clay takes on the lead role of Elder Price, and is one of the best actors to perform the role to date. Joining him as Elder Cunningham is Conner Peirson who, like Clay, was shipped over from the Broadway production of the show.
But it’s not just our two leads - the cast is uniformly wonderful. Case in point: one of the biggest laughs for us came from ensemble player Melissa Brown-Taylor, who briefly makes an appearance as Star Trek’s Uhura. Seeing such a wonderfully on-point physical impression of a character put into action for less than two minutes of background work was both hilarious and emblematic of the care and quality that permeates the entire show.
Despite the satirical edge, air of cynicism and general subversion you’d expect from the makers of South Park (one of the show’s songs contains eight uses of the “C” word alone), The Book of Mormon is, surprisingly, not a mean-spirited show by any stretch of the imagination. It doesn’t seek to deconstruct or take Mormonism down so much as it pokes affectionate fun at the religion while using it as a springboard to explore other things.
The show is more concerned with making broader, satirical points about prejudice and how we treat one another, not to mention being more concerned with its non-stop barrage of show-stopping song and dance numbers. This is a musical that wears its sincere adoration for other musicals on its sleeve and ultimately works as a celebration of the entire medium wrapped up in a package that’s still enjoyable for the sort of people who say that they usually hate musicals.
And did we mention that it’s funny? That shouldn’t need saying at this point, but it isn’t hyperbole to say that this could very well be the funniest stage show of all time. Pound for pound, it offers more moments that’ll force an involuntary grin across your face than even Avengers: Endgame. Truly, on just about every level, The Book of Mormon is a pure delight.