Theatre review: The Book of Mormon, Manchester Palace Theatre

book of mormon touring company african villagers listening to Elder Cunningham

Elder Cunningham brings the Mormon teachings to a Ugandan village, in his own way - Credit: Paul Coltas

If you’re wondering what the best night out in Manchester looks like right now, this is it: The Book of Mormon at Manchester’s Palace Theatre 

Possibly one of the funniest, cleverest, most unforgettable theatre productions you will ever see, The Book of Mormon will have you laugh out loud with delight, and shock, as it reveals not only the history of the Mormon faith, but points out some shortcomings in our own belief-set. In the best possible taste, of course. Or then again... 

I have been trying to work out quite how to summarise the storyline, but I genuinely don’t want to give anything away – the joy of discovery in this case certainly adds spice to the occasion. I have seen this show three times now, and it never gets less funny, less shocking or less worth seeing again. 

Woman in pseudo African costume sings and dances for the two Mormon missionaries

Elder Price (Robert Colvin) Elder Cunningham (Conner Peirson) prepare to head to their missionary posting - Credit: Paul Coltas

In brief, non-revealing terms: graduates of the Mormon missionary school in Salt Lake City excitedly await their placements. Slightly shocked, but accepting of God’s will, our heroes Elder Cunningham (not so bright, desperately needy, eager to please) and Elder Price (dashing, self-confident, determined to prove himself (but ideally in Orlando)) are sent to Uganda, where everything they ever thought they knew or believed is turned upside down. 

If you’re expecting a sarcastic or cynical overview of the Mormon faith, it may seem to start like that, but by the end you realise that there is something quite beautiful about a people who simply want to share the joy of faith, who genuinely believe that bringing God into your life will soothe all that ails you. And what is wrong with a little passion and love and innocence in this world? And it’s the innocence of our heroes, Mormons and Ugandans, that makes this show so beautiful, as well as rib-achingly funny, desperately sad and, eventually, joyously happy. 

five men in tap dance pose

A tap-dancing chorus line explains how to 'Turn It Off', led by Jordan Lee Davies - Credit: Paul Coltas

The music is superb, from the opening number, Hello!, through the brilliant Spooky Mormon Hell Dream to the heart-rending Sal-Tlay-Ka-Siti (Salt Lake City) each one is a brilliant example of how storytelling via the medium of song can tap the funny bone as easily as pull on the heartstrings. 

The cast are all excellent, with Conner Peirson as Cunningham (a role he has played to perfection for several years now) delighting the audience with his bumbling, good-hearted innocence and Jordan Lee Davies as Elder McKinley, a gay Mormon who has learned to ‘Switch It Off’ as the song goes, owning the stage whenever he appears. Aviva Tulley, as Nabulungi, the young woman who dreams of a better life as promised by Elder Cunningham, breaks all our hearts with her dream of Salt Lake City, while raising us back up again in the hilarious duet with Conner Peirson, Baptise Me. 

Aviva Tulley as Nabulungi, and Conner Peirson as Elder Cunningham

Baptise Me, performed by Aviva Tulley as Nabulungi, and Conner Peirson as Elder Cunningham - Credit: Paul Coltas

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Shockingly funny, brilliantly performed, The Book of Mormon is a must-do in Manchester this Christmas season. 

Book of Mormon plays at The Palace Theatre Manchester until 1 January. Book your tickets here, now