I refused to pay $600 for a ticket in New York in 2011, but realised that if they could charge that much, Book of Mormon must be something special. Since opening in London at the end of February 2013, the show has been sold out and you need to book three months ahead if you want to see it. And with premium ticket prices at £127.00 the pricing seems to be going in the same direction it did in New York. Up.
Avenue Q writer, Robert Lopez, just happened to spot South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone in the audience of Avenue Q one night in 2003. He confessed after the show to them that their film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut had been a big influence on him when creating the show. Funnily enough, Trey and Matt had only been to watch Avenue Q because their producer thought they would enjoy it! The trio then decided to join forces to create a new musical which is now known as The Book of Mormon! Eight years later, in 2011 the show opened on Broadway and now, finally, it has opened in London’s West End!
The story is of led by two Mormon boys (Elder Price and Elder Cunningham) who complete their training and are sent on their mission to Uganda, to convert the locals to the Mormon religion. Elder Price, the honorary Mormon student and Elder Cunningham who somehow scraped through the Mormon training, despite not knowing any of the stories. They fail miserably on their mission until the women of the town realise that by converting to Mormon life, they may get a chance to leave Uganda for America and escape the threat of losing their womanhood (that is the most eloquent way I can describe it).
West End star Alexia Khadime plays Nabulungi, the girl who conceives the plan to convert the women of the town to Mormonism. Alexia shines in this performance, texting away on her old fashioned typewriter! Alexia has most recently been seen playing Eponine in Les Miserables and was previously Elphaba in Wicked. Special mention must go to Stephen Ashfield who plays the hilariously camp Elder McKinley, teaching the other Elders that homosexuality is not something you can repress, but is something you must switch off in your mind completely (like a light switch) in a hilarious song that I am still singing today.
Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner (Elder Price and Elder Cunningham) have most recently been on the US National Tour of Book of Mormon and have now come to London to open the West End production. Gavin Creel gave an outstanding performance as Elder Price, especially as it was his first show since returning from a bout of laryngitis. West End actor Mark Evans has taken over the role of Elder Price on the US tour, raising the question as to whether he will soon be taking over the role in the London cast.
Like every good comedy musical, the show is filled with references to other west end shows. See how many you can spot if you go! The feel of the show felt very much like Spamalot, crossed with The Lion King and sprinkled with some Hairspray (a strange combination but it works)! Nabulungi’s baptism into the church of Latter Day Saints is hilariously performed as a sex scene until she declared she is ‘wet with salvation’.
In the finale we see the converts of Uganda put on a show to demonstrate just how much they have learned about Mormon history. Sadly, as their teacher knew as little as they did, compulsive liar Elder Cunningham’s story turned out slightly differently to the one he was supposed to be teaching!
So is Book of Mormon worth paying up to £127 and booking three months in advance for? Does it live up to the hype and clever marketing campaign? Yes – it does. The writing is as clever as Matilda the Musical, and while I wouldn’t recommend taking children to see the show, once you can get past the hideous language and shocking scenes, it is an amazing show with a serious underlying message.
Will Book of Mormon in the West End match the success it has had on Broadway? It certainly isn’t a family friendly show, with some of the most offensive language I have ever heard on stage and story lines so far beyond offensive that you laugh more out of shock than anything. But, once you strip all of that away you are left with the cleverest writing since Matilda the Musical, wonderfully catchy songs and amazing choreography (by Casey Nicholaw) , I’m sure the hype around this show will continue for quite some time.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Don’t miss the outrageously clever show. Click here to book your tickets today (it’s worth the wait and the price!)
For more information about The Book of Mormon click here