Tuesday, August 16

The Book of Mormon – Liverpool Empire

The Book of Mormon has been meting out metaphors since it first broke on the stage in 2011 and this latest adaptation continues that rich vein with recent local topical references slipped in for good measure.

Two young men, Kevin Price (Robert Colvin) and Arnold Cunningham (Jacob Yarlett) have finished their training to be missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and inspired by the memory of Joseph Smith (Johnathan Tweedie) and with the title Elder inserted in front of their names, the pair are thrust together and sent off on their two-year mission to find, recruit and baptise new members into the Mormon religion. However, it’s not to be the magic of Orlando but Africa when they pitch up in Uganda to help struggling Elder McKinley (Jordan Lee Davies) and team. Will they be able to shine a light on Mafala (Ewen Cummins), his daughter Nabulungi (Aviva Tulley), and other villagers or will the General (Thomas Vernal) prove to be the devil in disguise and literally stick an obstruction in their way?

The Book of Mormon is everything you expect with its book, music and lyrics by the incomparable trio that is Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone and is filled with showstopper song and dance routines that satirises the hypocrisy of modern religious beliefs and practices, but it is so much more too as its setting allows it to highlight issues such as female genital mutilation, paedophilia and warlords with nothing held back. Laughter is often the best medicine and in this production it also serves as a powerful tool to raise the profile of uncomfortable topics which need tackling as a matter of urgency and for which we all have a responsibility.

The main cast excel and are supported by a fantastic ensemble (Loren Anderson, David Brewis-Scott, Tre Copeland-Williams, Tom Dickerson, Chanel Edwards-Frederick, Tad Hapaguti, Daniel Haswell, Darren John, George Littell, Nicole Louise, Ben Middleton, David Perkins, Chomba S Taulo, Rory Shafford, Sharon Watts) and Swings (Patrick George, Sanchia Amber Clarke, Jed Berry, Evan James, Michael Lewis, Sasha Monique, Daniel N’Guessan-Lopez). This performance was conducted by Colm O’Regan.

Everything works brilliantly from Scott Pask’s scenic design to Ann Roth’s costumes; from Brian MacDevitt’s lighting to Brian Ronan’s sound. The risk was that this could be larger than life but in fact in its performance it demonstrates a perfectly balanced subtlety that squeezes out every nuance the production has to offer and with its seamless scene changes and fantastic choreography it is a joy to behold which left me happy and hopeful.

Colvin and Yarlett are understandably to the fore and one would not have considered the latter as an understudy with both delivering accomplished performances. Lee Davies gave a standout performance as Elder McKinley/Moroni whilst Tulley’s rich performance also showed she has a voice to die for.

The talent, energy, and commitment of the cast is impressive throughout as they deliver some amazing numbers including ‘Hello’, ‘Turn it Off’, ‘I Believe’, ‘Spooky Mormon Hell Dream’, ‘Sal Tlay Ka Siti’ and ‘Hasa Diga Eebowai’: my words alone can’t do them justice but take it from me, you won’t stop humming them or continuing to laugh at the lyrics long after the show is over.

Is it controversial? Probably, but given that the Mormons haven’t objected and that you will learn about a few wrongs in the world that need correcting then what’s not to like?

The Book of Mormon performs at Liverpool Empire through to 13th August with tickets available via https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-book-of-mormon/liverpool-empire/

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 21st July 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★

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