I’d be lying if I said that the animated series ‘South Park’ was not part of my upbringing. Even to this day, the show still tackles issues such as the pandemic and vaccinations. The programme’s creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have also always had a soft spot for musical theatre, ‘Cannibal: The Musical!’ and the film version of ‘South Park’ are examples.
‘The Book of Mormon’ is a collaboration with Robert Lopez, his most recent work being loving tributes in Marvel’s ‘Wanda Vision’, although he is more famous for ‘Frozen’ and ‘Avenue Q’.
It is now10 years since ‘The Book of Mormon’ had its smash-hit premier and granted, there are some dated aspects to the shows.
It tells of Elder Price the plucky, young Mormon man being sent to Africa to preach and spread the good word of the Latter-Day Saints. His first choice was Orlando, so it all comes as a bit of a shock!
The show is definitely funny, but it could have been shorter as the storyline does not really justify the length.
The Mormons themselves seemed to have finally embraced the show, handing out cards outside the venue as we left, so people can get their own free copy of their scared text. This wasn’t always the case…
Directed with sparkle by both Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker, there are some outrageous moments and perhaps these could have been cranked up a notch.
There are nods to other musicals and ‘The Lion King’ gets most of the ribbing, due to the show’s idealised African setting.
Some great sets pieces include a hell dance routine with Jeffrey Dahmer and Genghis Khan and the Mormon missionaries are seen dancing all over the stage during several numbers.
The spirt of Uganda comes out with colourful costumes and props, and contrasts with the perfection of the United States, with a grubby and poverty-stricken village.
There are the usual reflective ballads that plague all musicals, though here they work for some down time from the laughter. ‘I Believe’ has become an anthem, the opening ‘Hello’ is a delight and ‘Hasa Diga Eebowai’ is a bop if ever I’ve heard one.
A fine cast have come to Cardiff. Elder Price is well sympathetically portrayed thanks to Robert Colvin, a performer filled with charisma and flair. Comic relief is mostly from Conner Peirson, as Elder Cunningham the geeky sort who is thrilled to just do about anything for his new best friend Price.
Jordan Lee Davies plays Elder McKinley, the delightful, closeted leader of the District in Uganda. His songs and dance numbers are a real treat, with the rest of the elder ensemble joining in, all clad in sparkly pink vests.
Nabulungi is here performed by Aviva Tulley, who tries to battle tradition and brutality, and the terror in her country. Her duets with Pearson are also highlights, this loved-up, odd couple work well together.
The supporting cast are inspired, not afraid to take on a clever show which could easily ruffle feathers in today’s climate, but still finding a way to unite people.
The Book of Mormon runs at the WMC till 30th October, then on tour.