"A brash yet disarming puerile charm"
-The Financial Times-

"A mildly amusing musical..."
-The Guardian-

"There is something very winning about it"
-The Independent-

The Book of Mormon Tickets

Lives up to its international reputation

Critic Rating

25 March 2013, Prince of Wales Theatre
Dominic Dominic
I must admit I was somewhat worried about seeing 'The Book of Mormon' after spending the past two years listening to the mass amount of critical and audience praise. Often when the bar is set so high before you have even seen a show, your expectations can fail to be met. Whereas this has certainly been the case for other '5 star' West End productions such as 'Matilda', 'The Book of Mormon' certainly lives up to its international reputation.

Whilst this is indeed a magnificent production, whether it is 'the best musical this century' as the New York Times' critic Ben Brantley boldly exclaims remains undecided. Its arrival in London has been a long time coming, and audiences have fallen for every marketing trick in the book, seeing the show play to sold out houses throughout previews, and harnessing the audience energy into a formidable social media campaign. The single best thing about this show is that it is the first commercially successful original book musical to open in London in many years. An original show of this scale has not been seen since the heydays of the 1980s, when London was exporting mega-musicals at a phenomenal rate. Penned by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, with aid from Robert Lopez (who is responsible for another original London hit in 2006, 'Avenue Q'), this original story follows two plucky Mormon missionaries as they attempt to convert a tribe in Uganda to follow the Church of Latter Day Saints. The set up allows religion to play a key part in the parody of the show, but as many Mormons have commented, is in the most part portrayed in a respectful and interesting way. In the UK where Mormonism is relatively unheard of, and certainly not on the syllabus of main stream Religious Studies, it was thought that the subject matter would appear too distant to be relevant, unlike the impact it currently has in the USA where Mormonism is the 6th largest religion. The focus on relationships between each character however means that this is immaterial, and the real question mark the show presents is the role of organised religion as a whole, rather than a specific denomination.

What struck me about the show is how traditional it is to the musical form, and the debt it owes to musicals of the golden age. From the direct parodies of The Small Cabin of Uncle Thomas in 'The King and I' during the colourful retelling of Joseph Smith by the Ugandans, to the musical jokes from 'The Sound of Music' hidden in the Act II belter 'I Believe', and even a dream ballet sequence, this is a show that understands its heritage as much as it attempts to progress it. Criticism is often made of the offensive language and its close to the bone humour, but it teeters the line between hilarity and obscenity extremely well.

After two years on Broadway, a National tour and an LA production, the show itself is nailed to fine art. This fact alone is perhaps the only negative feature of the show, as it was so clinically perfect it sometimes feels a little manufactured. Rather than cast fresh British talent in the lead roles of Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner have been brought from the US tour to open the show in London, and it is obvious that they know their stuff. British talent shines through however in the ensemble, as well as Alexa Khadime who holds her own onstage against the strong character actors who hilariously refer to her as everything from Nala to Neutrogena.

The production is tight, sharp and clear combining astute direction with simple yet effective choreography courtesy of Casey Nicholaw. Tony Award Winner Stephen Oremus provides excellent musical direction, utilising the superb skills of the highly engaging ensemble. This is a well oiled machine that is set to run for years.

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Ian Shuttleworth
Parker and Casey Nicholaw’s production sells its bare-faced cheek with enormous technical and performance flair (despite an interruption due to technical problems on opening night) and a brash yet disarming puerile charm. Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner, as smooth Kevin Price and misfit Arnold Cunningham respectively, each have extensive experience in the American production which opened almost exactly two years ago. Alexia Khadime as the principal recruit among the villagers has a similarly strong London record in both plays and musicals. The total creation is neither as perfect nor as audacious as it pretends, but it puts over the package so well that we either do not notice or do not mind.

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Michael Billington
Jared Gertner is stubbily endearing as the klutzy Cunningham, who starts out as a total jerk and ends up as a local saviour. What Gertner essentially captures is the puppy-like innocence of a character who, having arrived in Africa as a closet racist, still never manages to get his tongue round Nabulungi's name. Conversely Alexia Khadime, as Nabulungi, constantly suggests a sharp intelligence behind the caricatured showbiz image of African naivete. And, completing the trio of lead roles, Gavin Creel as Elder Price wittily conveys the implacable self-regard and gleaming teeth of the door-to-door religious salesman.

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Paul Taylor
Is the show touristic? Does it merely flirt with blasphemy? Oh, you bet. But there is also something very winning about its spirit. True, it does not take any really daring risks. It’s not nearly as intrepid as Jerry Springer: the Opera....But songs, though not especially memorable, have bounce and bite and colour. And the spirit of the piece is tremendously attractive.

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