Firstly, let me qualify this review by saying I know absolutely nothing about theatre, musicals or the production that goes into them. I will say I am a massive fan of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, so the news that Book of Mormon was coming to London’s West End meant I was plotting ways to get tickets faster than you can say “Holy crap these tickets sell fast”.
The Book of Mormon, for the uninitiated is the multi-award winning musical written by Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Rob Lopez. The show in general, rather than openly mocking Mormonism, embraces the ridiculousness of religion in general, poking fun not just at Mormonism, but other religions too, but never in a nasty way. The Book of Mormon, as you would expect coming from the duo behind South Park and Team America is not for the easily offended.
The story is pretty simple, and follows two young followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ,Elder Price (Gavin Creel) and Elder Cunningham (played in the show I went to by David O’Reilly) as they embark on their first mission, to convert everyone in Uganda to the ways of the Mormon church. The set up is simple and the scene where the two find out their destination is played brilliantly, especially Elder Cunningham who seems convinced that it will be just like The Lion King. The reality of course is much different, and what follows is the rather bumbling Elder Cunningham finding his way from under the shadow of the ‘perfect’ Elder Price, as Elder Price himself goes through somewhat of an existential crisis. The story will take us from Salt Lake City, to Uganda, all the way to spooky Mormon hell!
To give away any more of the story or scenes would be criminal but suffice to say, there’s a lot of variety and the backing cast are all unique and interesting enough without pulling focus from the two leads. Alexia Khadime as Nabalungi is brilliant as the daughter of the village chief, who gains the affections of Elder Cunningham to hilarious consequences. The two leads where fantastic, and though I only got to see the stand-in Elder Cunningham, I can’t imagine the original would have been any better, David O’Reilly nailed it. Gavin Creel manages to play Elder Price perfectly with a certain amount of smug without seeming too over the top.
From what very little I know about theatre and musicals, the staging was brilliant and vibrant with some great backdrops, though as an audience the backdrop of Uganda might start to grate by about two thirds through. Thankfully it is broken up at times by a couple of dream sequences. You’ll likely be too wrapped up in the brilliant dialogue though to care. The writing is brilliant, peppered with a lot of nerd references, a lot of swearing, and some brilliant satire the likes of which only Trey Parker and Matt Stone can master.
So, that brings me to the music. Fans of Team America will be at home with the songwriting on display here, it’s bombastic and clever in all the right places. Particular highlights are the Lion King-esque (likely this way on purpose) ‘Hasa Digga Eebowai’, ‘Turn it off’ and ‘Man Up’ which gives Elder Cunningham a moment in the spot light. If you’re not singing these songs when you leave the theatre you’re likely dead inside.
The Book of Mormon may have taken it’s time coming to the London, and it may be difficult to get tickets for, but if you can, it’s well worth it. No matter where you sit you’re in for a treat. The main cast are excellent and the supporting cast fill the stage brilliantly. Hopefully now that Stone and Parker have started up their own studio (aptly named, Important Studios) we may see a Book of Mormon movie in the future, this will only be a good thing, but they have to get the casting spot on if it’s going to get anywhere near the brilliance achieved on stage.
- Photo Coverage: THE BOOK OF MORMON Celebrates 1,000th Performance (broadwayworld.com)
- Book of Mormon – Second time! (charlotteeedunn.wordpress.com)
- Theater Review: “The Book of Mormon” at the Kennedy Center (washingtonian.com)