Review The Book Of Mormon, Wales Millennium Centre by Rhys Payne.

The Mormons have finally made their journey all the way from Utah and have landed at the Wales Millennium Centre to celebrate their first touring musical in the Donald Gordon auditorium. They bring with them their signature twisted comedy, super catchy musical numbers and (surprisingly) an unreal amount of camp fun! What is probably most important to keep in mind before deciding to watch the show is that it comes from the satirical minds of Trey Parker and Matt Stone (who created South Park the tv series), and Bobby Lopez (who is one of the key writers of Avenue Q the puppet musical) and so this is not a musical for the faint of heart or anyone who is easily offended. There is constant bad language, sexual references and the jokes are usually based on outdated stereotypes who to a modern audience could be teetering on the offensive. It is extremely crude the entire way through and so is clearly meant for a more mature audience. This musical is very clearly a comedy which is shown in the opening moments of the show where all of the Mormons (who are devout members of the church) are all extremely flamboyant and camp! The choreographer Casey Nicholaw and their team had carefully crafted the dance routines in this musical to exaggerate the more effeminate physicality of every performer which let the audience know from the opening number that this was all supposed to be in jest and not an educational show (although their are a few moments where you will learn some new this about this religion) with the character Elder McKinley playing upon this throughout the show (but more on that later!)

The show is based on the very real moment in a Mormon where they are sent out of their mission trips to try and bring new people into the faith. It follows a shining star in the Mormon faith Elder Price, played by extremely talented Robert Colvin, as he is paired with the much more chaotic Elder Cunningham, played by the brilliant Conner Pierson, who are randomly paired together to spend the next two years in Africa specifically Uganda. The conversion trip is met by a lot of backlash for the locals as they have experienced numerous people coming over to try and promote Christianity but leaving the locals in the exact conditions they found them in. I thought that the casting of Rober Colvin as the up and coming leader of the faith Elder Price was fantastic! His physicality, vocals and facial expressions all helped to add to the preppy all-American character and purposefully reduced the amount of sympathy the audience have for the character and instead focuses this onto Elder Cunningham.  This character goes through a rollercoaster of emotions throughout the show from when he begins to lose faith in the religion he has been following since a young age, to the anger/frustration at being paired with his eccentric mission partner, to the moments where he is overflowing with arrogance. All these moments were performed beautifully by Robert and really took the audience of a journey with the feelings towards this at times selfish character. I thought that  “I Believe” was a highlight for me as Robert seems to excel in and is more confident during the higher sections of his vocal range. This song was structured as an almost detailed list of what Mormons should believe but with sprinkles of comedy throughout.

Despite all this, however, the highlight in this production would have to be Elder Cunningham who was played by the wonderful Connor Peirson. This was an extremely comical role that very much starts off as the punch line of many jokes but by the end because of a very strong and powerful leader. Connor managed to captures the more timid and more energetic moments in the show flawlessly! I thought that his rendition of “Man Up” was incredibly fun and energetic which was the perfect way to end act one. This was a theatrical spectacle with Conner flying across the stage on a moving platform, creating his own magnificent stage lighting and dancing across the stage in the most over-the-top way I have ever seen. Every comedic moment within the song was performed excellently with the audience in hysterics throughout the whole number. Both Elder Price and Cunningham contrasting personalities clashed beautifully together so much so that it made sense why they got on so well by the end of the show. The duet of “you and me (but mostly me)” really showcased the more arrogant side of the former and the side-kick energy and sympathy required for the latter! Cunningham forms a relationship with Nabulungi (played by the incredible Aviva Tulley) who lives in Uganda with her father. These two perform the hilarious “Baptise me” which contains wonderfully awkward sexual energy the audience seemed to eat up every second of it! However, the highlight performance of this character was the song “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” which was flawlessly sung by the clearly very talented vocalist.

I mentioned early about how Elder McKinley, who was played by the incredibly entertaining Jordan Lee Davies, really leaned into the more camp elements of the musical. In fact, this is the only character that openly talks about being, I suppose you would call it, an ‘ex-gay’ member of the church. However, this character showcase a lot of ‘fruity’ behaviour which does make the audience wonder if the “turn it off” method actually works. Jordan performed this role with all the fun and energy it deserved and stay in character the entire time even stealing focus when they weren’t even speaking. McKinley alongside his wonderful gaggle of dancing moments were brilliant fun throughout and I thoroughly enjoyed “Turn it off” especially the magical costume change and tap number that occurred about halfway through the number!

Overall this was a very energetic, entertaining and fun musical that was crammed full of catchy musical numbers. If you have a darker sense of humour then I would strongly recommend this show for you but if you are even the slightest bit easily offend it’s probably not one for you. The audience were on hysterics throughout the majority of the show which made for a very relaxed environment. I would rate this show 4 out of 5 stars!

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