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Apr 26th, 2016
Mormon fever has well and truly infiltrated the West End. Even Piccadilly Circus is plastered over with Mormon posters; not for the show, but by British Mormons, who have taken this production in very good humour, despite it poking fun at their religion. I've even seen a couple of trainee Elders in my neighbourhood (although I did have to stop myself from asking them if they were in the show). The Daily Mail positively loathes it - which has probably helped to drive ticket sales through the roof.
Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner have arrived in London fresh from the US tour of the show, playing Elder Price and Elder Cunningham respectively. Whilst Elder Price is overly ambitious and driven (with a slightly disturbing fondness for Disneyworld in Florida), Cunningham is his inexperienced, over-eager companion; yet both characters display a great deal of naivity that causes you to sigh 'Ah, bless'.
Throughout, there are knowing digs at another West End show, The Lion King (even featuring a Rafiki-like figure at the airport, before their flight to Uganda). The gags and songs are rude and sweary, but not gratuitous; there are jokes thrown in about female genital mutilation and child abuse which may cause a sharp intake of breath, but they are fleeting, and actually add to the narrative.
One memorable part for me was the above mentioned number 'Hasa Diga Eebowai' a beautifully harmonied parody of The Lion King, to which the two recruits join in joyfully with the local Ugandan villagers - until they find out what it means ('F*** You God'). This sets the scene for misunderstandings galore between Mormons and villagers alike, which culminates in a toe-curling play put on by the new converts for some visiting senior Mormon officials.
One scene stealer is Stephen Ashfield who plays Elder McKinley, a very closeted Mormon leader, who greets the boys when they arrive at the village. He leads the other team members in the side-splitting 'Turn It Off', taking a not-so-sly dig at organised religion's perceived attitude towards homosexuality.
All in all, don't be afraid to be jerked out of your comfort zone for a comedy musical. Yes, it's rude, it's lewd, even. It's been lambasted in one newspaper (read: Daily Mail) as grossly offensive and 'overhyped'.
Perhaps, but blimey, that's why we loved it!
Great night out: For fans of South Park, Team America
Recommend to friends? Those who appreciate a dark and twisted sense of humour, geeky references, and who don't mind prolific swearing or collective squirming in their seats. Perhaps not one for your gran. Or the vicar.
Best bit: The musical number 'Hasa diga eebowai'
Morning after effect: Trying to pronounce 'hasa diga eebowai' when you get caught out in the rain without a brolly.
View our show pages for more information about The Book of Mormon, Liverpool Empire Theatre.
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