One of the most anticipated shows of the year has opened in London, as the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical The Book of Mormon had it’s UK premiere at the Prince of Wales Theatre on Thursday night (21 March 2013).
The producers of the show, written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone plus Avenue Q’s Robert Lopez, have not allowed themselves to be complacent about the London opening following its New York success: they have run a long, expensive marketing campaign for the show in the run up to its opening, which has paid off in a sold-out first booking period, and a second booking period now open and selling well.
Part of this marketing push was to sell the show based on its Broadway hype rather than on the reaction of UK critics, who have remained a wild card in terms of their reaction.
The good news is that it has been mostly positive, with the critics who enjoyed it really enjoying it. But the big three key newspapers, the Guardian, Telegraph and Mail, were slightly less impressed with the show.
Read a round-up of London reviews for The Book of Mormon, below.
"Strip away all the hype surrounding this hit Broadway import and what do you find? A mildly amusing musical, with some knowingly parodic songs, that takes a few pot shots at religious credulity without ever questioning the need for belief. I had a perfectly pleasant time, but the idea that the show, which won nine Tony awards, is either daringly offensive or a Broadway breakthrough is pure codswallop." Read more
The Daily Telegraph
"The American actors Gavin Creel and Gared Gertner make a cracking double-act as the mismatched missionaries but The Book of Mormon strikes me as a decadent and self-indulgent musical, and its mixture of satire and syrup ultimately proves repellent. I am the first to concede however that this is likely to be a minority view." Read more
"Parker and Stone have created something spirited and refreshing. True, in Mormonism they’ve chosen a soft target. As an attack on the more arcane aspects of religious piety it’s not got that much bite. But it is rich in absurdity and ecstatic weirdness – and has been imbued by co-directors Parker and Casey Nicholaw with athletic zing, precisely delivered by a cast that includes sharp supporting turns from Giles Terera, Alexia Khadime and Chris Jarman." Read more
"If you want to attack a religious group, why not militant Islam? Missionaries in central Africa include some of the bravest people in the world. They promote western values with a benevolence quite lacking from US political and cultural power. But to satirise those forces might not make one a fortune on Broadway. This is a cowardly, coarse, cynical show, worth avoiding." Read more
"Yes, some of the puerile jokes outstay their welcome but some of the numbers are standout, including I Believe (“that God is on a planet called Kolob”) and Turn It Off, where one missionary sings about repressing his homosexuality by tapdancing in a sparkly cerise waistcoat. There’s something just a little bit brilliant about that." Read more
"The quality and simple vim of the singing, from Gavin Creel as Elder Price and Jared Gertner – the show's antihero and ultimate star – as Elder Cunningham, and particularly Alexia Khadime as Nabulungi (none of the Americans can manage her name: she's called Neutrogena at one stage: earlier, the lyricists managed with quiet delight to end a stanza with a country called Ugandawa).
The warped logic in the best song of the night – it's bad to lie, but it's also wrong to be gay, so simply… turn it off!
The entirely redemptive nature of the whole show, and how belief may be… insane, but also a force for temporal good." Read more
"Put it this way. I absolutely loved it – albeit slightly guiltily. Directed with terrific zap and zestful precision by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker, the show thwacks together a caricature-tendentious view of modern Mormon masculinity with a calculatedly outrageous Lion King-skewed view of Africa. It begins with preternatural comic efficiency. A line-up of beamingly brainwashed-seeming Mormon men (think squeaky-clean flight attendants with added Faith) strut their stuff, with their sawing elbows nearing sky-level in demented officiousness." Read more