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'Risque, wickedly funny and inappropriate in every way': The Book of Mormon comes to Birmingham Hippodrome - review with pictures

By Rebecca Sayce | Birmingham | Theatre & Comedy | Published:

You don't need to travel to Salt Lake City to get a taste of paradise now the Mormons have descended on Birmingham.

The cast of Book of Mormon at Birmingham Hippodrome

From the minds of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone as well as Avenue Q co-writer Robert Lopez comes The Book of Mormon, a darkly witty and satirical look at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' beliefs and practice.

First opening in 2011 on Broadway, the show was since been awarded nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album.

At Birmingham Hippodrome alone, the show has sold more than 40,000 tickets for its run until March 28.

Kevin Clay as Elder Price The Book of Mormon

It's certainly not a show for the faint-hearted, with taboo jokes and side-splitting songs that had the audience both gasping and roaring with laughter in equal measure during its opening night.

The musical follows two mismatched Latter-day Saints missionaries who are sent to Uganda to preach the word of the church on their first mission.

When they arrive in the remote village, many of its inhabitants are distracted by much more pressing issues such as HIV/AIDS, famine, female genital mutilation and the looming threat of the village warlords.

The Book of Mormon

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Undeterred, Elder Price, Elder Cunningham and their fellow missionaries continue to spread the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, even when faced with a crisis of faith, a disastrous meeting with the mission president, and spooky Mormon hell dreams.

The show is fearlessly funny and deeply nuanced in its message, ultimately endorsing the positive power of love and faith despite its profanity-laden songs and off-colour humour.

It revels in laughing at things that otherwise bring us to tears and despair, sending the audience home with smiles on their faces and the odd sense of having come, somehow, to really, really like the Mormon faith.

The Book of Mormon

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This show doesn't simply poke fun at the religion - although there is plenty of that - it is far cleverer and far kinder, offering witty ditties, expert choreography, superb acting and so much more to dazzle the audience.

Opening number Hello! welcomes us to the world of Mormon, a delirious singing sensation of ringing doorbells, friendly greetings and cheesy smiles that sets the off-kilter tone of the entire show.

The tenets of the Mormon church are presented not with finger-pointing mockery, but with reverence that pokes fun at itself.

What brings this razor-sharp narrative together is the talented cast armed with slapstick comedy, tongue-in-cheek songs and perfectly-timed delivery that makes this controversial musical so beloved.

The Book of Mormon

Every part the all-American saint, Robert Colvin shines as the pompous Elder Price, proving every part as cartoonish and outlandish as any South Park character.

Through numbers You and Me (But Mostly Me) and I Believe, he breathed life into the narcissistic and preppy leading man with a wry smile, the straightening of a tie and exaggerated reactions to the hedonistic nature of the Ugandan village.

Accompanied by Elder Cunningham, played expertly by Connor Peirson, the duo dazzled the crowd with their endearing characterizations.

From the moment he first bumbled onto the stage, Peirson was met with raucous cheers from the audience as the affable and imaginative Elder Cunningham.

Conner Peirson as Elder Cunningham in the Book of Mormon

The geeky dreamer impressed through comedy hits Man Up, Baptize Me and I Am Here for You that aptly embodied the actor's impressive emotional and vocal range as he hip-thrusted and air-guitared across the stage in the name of Jesus Christ.

With toothy grins, clean-cut suits and slicked back hair, the missionary swing dancers, including Will Hawksworth as Elder McKinley, added a touch of pizazz to the stage with their impressive quick costume changes and faultless choreography to accompany rib-tickling tap number Turn It Off and celebratory ode I Am Africa.

The Ugandan villagers were a stark contrast to the clean-cut Mormons, introduced in blasphemous anthem Hasa Diga Eebowai that translates to 'f*** you God', much to the utter shock of our religious protagonists.

Nicole-Lily Baisden as Mafala Hatimbi's daughter, Nabulungi, captivated the audience with the powerful range and tone of her sublime voice, while Ewen Cummins as village guide Mafala garnered laughter with every wide-eyed grin that pre-cursored another scathing comment on life in his impoverished village.

Nicole-Lily Blaisden as Nabulungi in the Book of Mormon

I never thought I would be able to laugh along with a Ugandan warlord - I'm not sure many people would - but Thomas Vernal made this possible as the show's tyrannical villain The General, with an animated scowl and guttural grunt that added a giggling quality to each cruel uttering.

The Book of Mormon is an all-singing, all-dancing spectacle that provides an animated take on the Mormon dogma without ever being particularly mean.

It's atheist in its outlook but looks conciliatory towards anyone who's faith makes them happy and strive to be a better person.

As the cast took their final bows, bellowing applause and a standing ovation shook the foundations of Birmingham Hippodrome.

The Book of Mormon

Risque, wickedly funny and inappropriate in almost every way, the Book of Mormon will have you signing the words of Joseph Smith American Moses long after the curtains drop.

Runs until March 28. For more information and to buy tickets, click here.

Rebecca Sayce

By Rebecca Sayce
@becci_star

Entertainment journalist for Express & Star and Shropshire Star. Contact me: rebecca.sayce@expressandstar.co.uk

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