Disclaimer: This won’t be a review of the musical, but rather me discussing my thoughts on it, however there will inevitably be some general spoilers, specifically reference to a few songs. If you don’t want to know anything about the show, you probably shouldn’t keep reading.
There’s something so refreshing about going to see a musical and not knowing a single thing about it other than how apparently funny it is. Years ago, my sister in law told me that I absolutely had to see The Book of Mormon after she’d seen it on Broadway, and although I’d never heard of it, my interest was piqued. The show came to Manchester in June, and it’s been screaming at me (literally – there was a lady on Oxford road screaming about it) every day lately whilst I’m at work nearby. Now that I’m a big spender with no wedding to pay for, I took advantage of a £13 ticket offer, thinking it didn’t really matter if the seats weren’t great because I don’t know anything about what I’m watching anyway! James decided to join me, which I found quite strange as he’s not really the musical type and he sees enough of me at home, but he seemed uncharacteristically interested and so off we went with our £13 tickets. Little did I know that it would be the best £13 I have ever spent.
At the very start of the show, people were laughing at things that I didn’t really find funny, and the humour was actually a bit generic, if I’m completely honest. For a brief moment I feared it was the theatre version of the situation where someone tells you a hilarious story and you have to attempt a fake laugh so as to not hurt their feelings, even though the story was a 5/10 at best. I know this situation well, because the person telling the hilarious story is usually me. But I thought something must have attracted James to come along, and my sister in law wouldn’t say something was hilarious if it wasn’t, so maybe I should just be patient. As was probably obvious, my worries were premature, and by the second song in, I found myself enjoying it and giggling along. In hindsight, I can see that we were being eased in gently with predictable humour at this point, and I was blissfully unaware of the chaos that was to follow.
Before writing this post I googled whether people are offended by The Book of Mormon musical. I mean, it’s hideously offensive, so I wondered why I’d only ever heard good things. There were a few opinion pieces, and a comment on TripAdvisor stating ‘if you find the topic of female genital mutilation funny, you’ll enjoy this show’. Now, I definitely don’t find the topic of female genital mutilation funny in any way, and I’m sure you don’t either (I hope!), but I do think that that specific commenter may have missed the point of the show. The show doesn’t glamourise female genital mutilation, or any of the other awful topics touched upon throughout, actually quite the opposite. The show incorporates a range of risqué themes into its humour, which are key to the show’s brilliance. It actually has some lovely themes such as friendship, morals, helping others, the intention to make a difference in the world and journeys of self discovery. And anything that makes your face hurt from laughing can only be a good thing! That being said, there is still huge margin for offense throughout, and I’m very aware that as a viewer, no part of my character was attacked like some peoples’ will be; maybe if it was, I’d think differently (though I still doubt it).
I love musicals and theatre, but this was the first time I’ve been to see a musical without knowing a single thing or listening to anything first. I’d go as far as saying The Book of Mormon is the best show I’ve ever seen – it’s definitely the funniest. I was in awe at how well the actors executed their characters without wavering during hilarious moments. I found myself shaking my head in bewilderment at times, because I couldn’t believe how outrageous it was. I laughed until it hurt through the songs ‘Hasa Diga Eebowai’, where there’s a special message to God; ‘Turn it off’ which encourages you to simply turn off any seemingly negative emotion or character trait ‘like a light switch’; ‘Baptize Me’ which is obvious from the name; and ‘Spooky Mormon Hell Dream’ which, honestly, was just the most bizarre and surreal thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I cried laughing during the song ‘Joseph Smith American Moses’, because nothing, and I mean nothing, could have prepared me for that entire scene. But all of the madness was interspersed with the most beautiful moments, and I found myself close to tears during songs like ‘Sal Tlay Ka Siti’, where the comical but touching lyrics and delivery somehow made me realise how lucky we are to live in the Western world and have things in our lives that we so often take for granted. The mixture of comedy and humility kept the audience on board throughout, and I found myself thinking how clever the writers were to evoke such a vast array of emotions from the audience. To create and produce such an outrageously offensive show that is simultaneously such a feel-good musical, is a testament to outstanding talent. Despite its offensiveness, I walked out feeling as though I had just witnessed a masterpiece.
If you are in Manchester, like music, theatre and comedy, are open to some chaos, and don’t get offended easily, you should definitely check it out before it finishes. The £13 offer is still available for certain dates, and you can get them here. It’s only around until 24th August so you’ll need to be quick. And no, I’m not on commission (though I should be, because I’ve persuaded about 20 people to go and see it already!). The one thing I would say, is that if you aren’t familiar with the show at this point, don’t watch or listen to anything from the show beforehand. Just experience it for the first time live, you won’t be disappointed. And if you do go, I’d love to hear your thoughts!