Friday, 22 March 2013

Theatre review: The Book of Mormon


Synopsis: The Book of Mormon is a religious satire musical from the creators of South Park, Matt Parker and Trey Stone, and Avenue Q's Robert Lopez, which tells the story of two young Mormon missionaries who are sent to a small town in Uganda to bring news of the Latter Day Saints.

Cast: Gavin Creel, Jared Gertner, Alexia Khadime, Stephen Ashfield, Giles Terera, Haydn Oakley, Chris Jarman, Mark Anderson, Benjamin Brook, Daniel Buckley, Daniel Clift, Ashley Day, Candace Furbert, Patrick George, Nadine Higgin, Tyrone Huntley, Evan James, Michael Kent, Matt Krzan, Oliver Lidert, Daniel Mackinley, Luke Newton, Terel Nugent, David O'Reilly, Olivia Philip, Lucy St Louis, Yemie Sonuga, Kayi Ushe, Tosh Wanogho-Maud, Sharon Wattis, Liam Wrate.

Rating:


Oh em gosh you guys, something incredible has arrived in the West End and it's called The Book of Mormon! And no, I've not converted my speech to that of a hyper American teenager but after seeing this fabulous new musical I am unable to stop quoting the characters, and "oh em gosh" is one of the many phrases now stuck in my head.



The Book of Mormon West End with Gavin Creel (centre) and Jared Gertner (far right). Photo: Johan Persson

The show tells the story of alpha Mormon Elder Price, who is one of those annoying has-it-all, top-of-the-class kind of guys (yet despite this, you can't help but fall in love with the character, though in my case this may also have something to do with the not at all unpleasing on the eyes actor portraying him, Gavin Creel), and his exact opposite, geeky and friendless Elder Cunningham (played by Jared Gertner). After finishing Mormon training the two get partnered together and are send on a mission to Africa to convert the people of a village in Uganda to Mormonism.

So far it sounds pretty straightforward, right? Except despite what the summary may suggest, this is not a musical promoting the word of God and the Book of Mormon. On contrary, the Mormons are played over the top naive and on more than one occasion the religion's history is called into question ("I'm going to take you back to biblical times, 1823"). Furthermore, there are many outrageous scenes set in Africa where the hardship of the villagers is used for satirical purposes. And let's just say that despite the cheery musical number accompanying the introduction of the Ugandans with the song "Hasa Diga Eebowai", it doesn't exactly mean "no worries for the rest of your days".

Having said that, while the show may be filled with profanities and could be seen as offensive as it pokes fun at religion, race and sexual preference it is also surprisingly sweet and you can't help but have a big fat Mormon smile plastered on your face throughout.



Elder Cunningham (Jared Gertner) and the Africans. Photo: Johan Persson

The creators'  love for musical theatre shines through in the catchy and clever musical numbers that almost serve as a bible in their own right; one to musical theatre. Where "Hasa Diga Eebowai" quite obviously spoofs The Lion King's "Hakuna Matata" there are also less obvious musical references to other Broadway classics such a Wicked, Annie and The King and I, making the show an extra delight for fans of the genre.

The choreography for the numbers is brilliant as well, the Mormons in particular have some memorable 'dance' moves. Stand-out numbers are "Turn It Off", in which Stephen Ashfield takes centre stage as flamboyant district team leader Elder McKinley, and Creel's performance of "I Believe" which is both hilarious and heartfelt at the same time. Other highlights include the visual delight of "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" and opening number "Hello", which perfectly introduces the rather naive Mormons and sets up the tongue-in-cheek tone for the rest of the show.



One of the many hilariously choreographed Mormon dances, with Stephen Ashfield (centre). Photo: Johan Persson

The West End cast is strongly led by Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner, who came off the US tour to open the West End production. They are both so perfect in the roles of Elder Price and Elder Cunningham respectively that it's hard to imagine anyone else doing the characters as much justice.

Another stand-out performance was that of Stephen Ashfield, who with his hilarious portrayal of Elder McKinley manages to steal every scene he's in. Special mention also to Alexia Khadime, who is perfect as the sweet Nabulungi and gets the chance to impress the audience with her vocal chords during a beautiful rendition of "Sal Tlay Ka Siti".



The company of The Book of Mormon West End. Photo: Johan Persson

The Book of Mormon is the best new show that has landed in the West End since Matilda in 2011. Filled with catchy tunes, quotable one-liners ("Africa is nothing like Lion King, I think that movie took a lot of artistic licence", "I can't believe Jesus called me a dick"), hilarious choreography, the unmissable Broadway-esque tap dance sequence, and geeky references (there are even cameo appearances by Hobbits and Yoda), what is there not to love?

According to the Mormons in the musical "God loves Mormons and he wants some more". If they're all such an utter delight to watch as the ones in the show I cannot blame him. I now certainly want some more The  Book of Mormon.


Ticket info: Tickets are £39.50, £49.50, £69.50 (top price) and £97 (premium) and there's currently limited availability until June. 21 front row stall seats priced just £20 each are available in a daily lottery, which runs at the theatre between 2.5 and 2 hours before each performance.

Location:
 Prince of Wales Theatre, Coventry St, London W1D 6AS.

Links: Official website - Facebook - Twitter - Book Tickets

4 comments:

  1. Anonymous22/3/13 15:35

    Hey seems the show looks like to be a runaway sucess - do you know however the full understudy list?

    ReplyDelete
  2. The programme only lists the understudies for the seven main characters, so not all Mormons or Africans. If there's any particular character or actor you're interested in let me know and I'll have a look for you. :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous27/3/13 18:00

    Mainly the main characters if at all possible?

    ReplyDelete
  4. No problem, here you go:

    Price's dad/Joseph Smith/Mission President: Matt Krzan, Mark Anderson

    Moroni/Elder McKinley: Mark Anderson, Michael Kent

    Elder Price: Ashley Day, Luke Newton

    Mafala Hatimbi: Terel Nugent, Oliver Lidert

    Nabulungi: Lucy St Louis, Aisha Jawando

    General: Tosh Wanogho-Maud, Terel Nugent

    Stand-bys Elder Cunningham: Daniel Buckley, David O'Reilly

    ReplyDelete

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