If you have been walking around London in the past weeks or are just slightly interested in musical theatre (or both) you will have noticed one thing: The Mormons are in town! It is almost impossible to avoid this show these days.
The Book of Mormon has been a sell out on Broadway since March 2011 and has now found its way across the pond and right into London’s West End. The show tells the story of Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, two young Mormon missionaries who are sent to Uganda to share the Book of Mormon and convert the locals. However, people in the village they travel to are worried about war, poverty and AIDS and have no interest in religion.
It does sound quite deep just from reading this short and VERY basic summary. However, in reality The Book of Mormon is a satiric approach to organised religion and the literal credibility of the LDS Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). But despite being downright filthy in parts The Book of Mormon is a show with heart and in the end it tells us that religion can do good if taken metaphorically.
The show’s songs are as clever as they are hilarious – some of them hinting at well-known musical theatre classics. The choreography has to be one of the finest you have seen on a West End stage and the characters – whilst drawn out of proportion – are thought through and well-developed.
Gavin Creel reprises his role as Elder Price after opening the US National Tour of The Book of Mormon. Gavin is no stranger to the West End having starred in both Mary Poppins and Hair. His Elder Price starts out on his mission wonderfully optimistic and sure of his beliefs but after being sent to Uganda and experiencing various set-backs his faith starts to crumble. Gavin plays Elder Price with a boyish charm that is impossible to resist. His singing is flawless and his acting is nothing but spot on.
Jared Gertner plays Elder Cunningham who is sent to Uganda with Elder Price to spread the word of Jesus amongst the locals through the Book of Mormon. Elder Cunningham is the geeky outsider, the one that never fits in. He doesn’t actually care about the Book of Mormon (in fact he hasn’t even read it). Elder Cunningham just wants to be accepted and declares the popular Elder Price his new best friend. Jared is a perfect fit for this part – his Cunningham is hilariously funny and awkward but he’s never a complete laughing-stock.
The secret star of the show has to be the wonderful Stephen Ashfield who shines as Elder McKinley. His “Turn it off” is a complete show stopper and has the audience in fits of laughter. Stephen has appeared in several West End shows to rave reviews including Jersey Boys (Bob Gaudio) and Legally Blonde (Emmett) but The Book of Mormon finally gives him the chance to show off his incredible comic timing. To say Stephen is great in the show would be an understatement – he is quite simply outstanding.
Alexia Khadime is an irresistibly cute Nabulungi. She plays the part with a tender humour and manages to win the audience over instantly. “Baptize me“ (Nabulungi and Elder Cunningham) is brilliantly funny and “Hasa Diga Eebowai (Reprise)“ gives her the chance to show off her amazing voice.
There really is no weak link in this cast. From Chris Jarman (General) to Haydn Oakley (Price’s Dad, Joseph Smith, Mission President), Giles Terera (Mafala Hatimbi) and the complete ensemble this cast is put together perfectly. The chemistry on stage is noticeable throughout the show. In fact I don’t recall watching a show that was so extremely slick after less than two weeks of previews in all my years of theatre going.
The Book of Mormon is by far the most offensive piece of theatre I have ever seen and I am sure there will be visitors who can’t cope with this kind of humour. This is definitely not a show for kids and if you can’t take jokes about religion The Book of Mormon is not for you.
However, I had the absolutely best time watching this show. I laughed until I cried and I loved all the “Did they actually just say that??” moments (there are plenty, believe me). And in the end this is a parody but it is also a story about friendship, standing up for your belief and staying true to yourself. Having said that it is funniest show I have had the pleasure to attend in my life – a through and through brilliant night out.
The Book of Mormon is one of those “Beg and steal for a ticket” shows – a proper hit musical that you just can’t miss out on!
The Book of Mormon is playing at The Prince of Wales Theatre. For more info and to book tickets go to http://www.bookofmormonlondon.com.