The audience was a buzz with those who had listened the Broadway soundtrack, heard of colleagues who found it too offensive and some who had never even heard of the show. But after a listening to the divine words of South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone, along with Avenue Q's Robert Lopez - we all signed up for a standing ovation. A night full of great songs, a talented cast and one or two outrageous moments, quite frankly, the Mormons had me at "Hello".
The Book of Mormon has been a huge success stateside, making back it's initial investment in merely nine months and winning nine Tony awards, so it's journey to the West End seems natural. And boy are we glad they came knocking! With theatres sometimes struggling to get ticket sales, Broadway and West End have the danger of having watered down shows and revivals, basically safe bets. But the Mormons definitely don't play it safe, being anything but bland, they are just the spice we needed.
The cast is headed up by Gavin Creel (Elder Price) and Jared Gertner (Elder Cunningham), who are no strangers to the show, having both featured in the US tour. Opening the show with the wonderful "Hello", which pays homage to my favourite "The Telephone Hour" from Bye Bye Birdie, your instantly greeted with the smiling faces of the cast of Mormons. Each one with whiter teeth than the last, they're the all-singing, all-dancing super-group we were waiting for. Numbers including "Two by Two" and "Turn it off" are performed with high energy, big smiles and wonderful choreography. They execute routines with an over-excitement that is visible in every exaggerated move, with each one having a glaze of full conviction. When they are sent from Utah to Uganda, we meet a whole host of new characters with the show-stopping "Hasa Diga Eebowai", and these Mormons know they're certainly not in Salt Lake City any more. English actress Alexia Khadime plays Ugandan native, Nabulungi, wonderfully, with the number "Sal Tlay Ka Siti" showing her big vocal range and ability to draw in the audience for a tender moment amongst the Mormon madness.
The score as a whole, is one which is as close to faultless as I've seen. Song after song is a constant flow of witty lyrics and strong melodies, without a dud tune in sight. For those who love musicals, they deliver on every count, giving you all the expected motions of songs, in very unexpected ways. "Baptize me" had the audience roaring with laughter, "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" brought the crazy and "I Believe" left the audience with chills. I can't speak highly enough about the range of emotions captured in this show, keeping your full attention and taking you along for every note. For theatre first-timers, they are instantly great songs, and for Westend regulars you'll recognise more than a few nods to melodies from Wicked, Lion King and Annie.
The show is certainly not for the faint-hearted in terms of subject matter, but if you enter the theatre with an open mind, you will be rewarded with what I believe to be the best two and half hours currently on the West End. It has an enviable score of bona fide Broadway hits, delivering genuine laugh-out-loud moments with touches of tenderness and insight. The Book of Mormon is a well-crafted spectacular that takes you straight to musical-comedy heaven.