A pair of Mormon missionaries get sent to Uganda to convert the natives. What could possibly go wrong?The Book Of Mormon (or BOM, which I will call it from now on because writing it out every time will get tedious) is a musical that has become a worldwide phenomenon. Written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the brains behind South Park, it is also co-created with Robert Lopez, who conceived Avenue Q. If you’ve ever watched South Park or seen Avenue Q, you’ll know that this particular brand of humour is pretty dark and rude. Delicate and sensitive people need not apply.
Opening up in 2011 on Broadway, BOM garnered many positive reviews, snapped up 9 Tony Awards and its original cast recording (Which I own) became the highest selling musical album in 4 decades. Pretty amazing achievements, but does the West End version hold up to the lofty expectations?
I can safely say that BOM is the funniest thing I have seen on-stage. Everything from the set design to the music was top-notch. You could tell that the actors were genuinely having fun with the script. The costume design was excellent, from the rural African costumes to the pressed white shirts of Elder Cunningham (Jared Gertner) and Price (Gavin Creel). These two characters are absolutely brilliant, with Price being the missionary who is destined for greatness, only to be dragged down by Cunningham, who is more interested in Star Wars and Lord Of The Rings than converting natives. The chemistry between the two actors is phenomenal. Likewise, there are solid performances from Nabalungi (Alexia Khadime), an African woman who dreams of reaching a paradise called Sal Tlay Ka Siti (A clever riff on Salt Lake City) and Elder McKinley (Stephen Ashfield) an Elder that is secretly gay but hides his feelings in song. Which takes us to the real meat of this production.
The songs in BOM are phenomenal! Every single one is thoroughly enjoyable, providing you don’t mind expletive language. They range from a nice little ditty about best friends (“I am here for you”) to a brilliant take on Hakuna Matata (“Hasa Diga Eebowai”) that will either have audiences howling or covering their ears. Being a fan of South Park, I absolutely loved it. The tunes are very memorable, and I found myself whistling melodies long after I left the theatre. There are some excellent pieces of choreography throughout, most notably a tap dancing routine which has a few surprises packed into it.
Of course, the singing is what we all go to musicals for, right? And wow, does BOM deliver. Gavin Creel’s voice is astounding, he knocked me off my feet with his powerful voice. Alexia Khadime was also a stand-out performance, absolutely smashing a song that tears at our heartstrings with its bitter-sweet meaning, and her voice just drives that home. I expect to see their careers soar after this.
Now, onto the topic of how religion is addressed in the musical. Whilst a lot of people hate it for its controversial approach, I thought it was excellently done. At first, it certainly does lampoon religion. Satire abounds, and BOM pulls no punches. But by the end, you realise that religion isn’t that bad, and that sometimes people need a little faith in their lives. The events that unfold in BOM certainly seem to embrace religion in the end, and it’s quite eye-opening in my opinion.
So is The Book Of Mormon all it’s cracked up to be? Yes, yes and yes. My favourite musical since I first heard the soundtrack, it is a hilarious and often insightful production that you will never forget. You better book your tickets quick though, because they are REALLY hard to get a hold of!
Whatever Matt and Trey cook up next, I will eagerly welcome it into my life!