How to sum up The Book of Mormon? Well, outrageous would certainly be a choice descriptor. Filthily funny, fantastically foul-mouthed and farcically fearless could also be some others. Piqued your interest yet?
Knowing the musical comedy comes to the stage from the creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and Bobby Lopez, co-writer of Avenue Q and Frozen, goes some way to predicting the style of its humour and the absurdity of its action. But to give you a blow-by-blow summary of its plot, upon review, seems somewhat redundant, because its in the ingenuity of its humour, accentuated through the superb delivery of its dialogue, where the true magic of the play lies.
In its essence, The Book of Mormon follows the misadventures of a mismatched pair of missionaries, sent to a place that's about as far from Salt Lake City as you can get: war-torn Uganda. Doesn’t really sound too funny yet, does it? Trust us, it will have you crying with laughter by the end – even if you’re wincing at some of the jokes while you do.
Hailing originally from Broadway, The Book of Mormon’s musicality is of the standard we have now come to expect from the world-renowned home of musical theatre. Yet it also pokes fun at its own theatrical heritage in its style – an unexpected layer of ingenuity that we, certainly, loved. With melodies that are insanely catchy and devilishly-clever lyrics that heap humour onto the play’s action, you’ll walk out the theatre humming along and won’t stop for a week.
It must be said that while the whole company of actors on Sunderland’s stage truly excelled in their performances, three deserve special mention. Kevin Clay, in the role of Elder Price, and Conner Peirson, as Elder Cunningham, both recreated their roles from the Broadway and US touring productions and excelled in the naturalness of their zealous, dorky characters, while their chemistry was indelible. Nicole-Lily Baisden also shone as Nabulungi, arguably stealing the show after her first solo number, Sal Tlay Ka Siti, with her breathtaking vocals, and perfectly balancing a hilarious innocence of the Western world with her deadpan acceptance of the injustices of her African home, and offering real moments of tenderness within her comedy.
Since making its world premiere in March 2011 at New York’s Eugene O’Neill Theatre, where it won nine Tony Awards (including Best Musical), The Book of Mormon has now been performed on three continents and won over 30 international awards. The musical has smashed long-standing box office records in New York, London, Melbourne, Sydney and cities across the US, and won four Olivier Awards when it opened on the West End. And now it has ventured up to Sunderland, we can see why.
The darkest of humour, delivered in the most intelligent of ways, The Book of Mormon admittedly may not cater to everyone’s comedic tastes. But if you appreciate world-class stagecraft, musicality and inventiveness, we can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
The Book of Mormon will be performed at the Sunderland Empire until 14th September. For more information, visit www.atgtickets.com