Well what a amazing evening; raucous, irreverent and rude…… Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez have created their own miracle in the West End which is going to set the theatre world alight. Despite the hype and some of the negativity that has surrounded the show, this is pure adult entertainment of the highest order. Who would have thought a musical satirising the teachings of the Mormon faith could have the impact that was shown at last night’s performance. On the one hand the modern poke at society, whilst on the other a musical in the traditional vein of teeth, tap and jazz hands! The show is a huge success in the States and one wonders if this will translate here in the West End, well no need to worry if last night’s audience were anything to go by.
The shows focuses on the pairing of two young Mormons, the idealistic Elder Kevin Price (Gavin Creel) who is the epitome of a text book Mormon and the somewhat “desperate to please” Elder Arnold Cunningham (Jared Gertner) as they undertake their rites of passage mission to Uganda; a far cry from the Orlando that Elder Price was hoping for. Thrown together, this obviously mismatched dysfunctional couple tip up in the Ugandan village with their crisp white shirts, black ties and dazzling smiles to educate the locals into the ways of the Mormon faith.
Creel is fabulous as Price producing a comic performance supported by strong vocals and solid exciting dance routines. With his on spot on all American smile, chiselled jaw and starry-eyed outlook which descends through a coffee induced hazy overdose to the self pity of realising the errors in his religious convictions. However, it is Gertner who steals the show; his geeky character is underpinned by impeccable comic timing and a pathos that had the audience eating from his hands. His almost puppy-like willingness to do good and obsessive need to please sets off a series of events that culminate in a hilarious false re-enactment by the locals of the Mormon origins. The mixture of references to Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings as being the basis of the Mormon story has the audience laughing in buckets. Gertner and Creel deliver witty lines and create characters that are engaging and warmed to by the audience.
A real show highlight had to be when Elder McKinley (Stephen Ashfield) and the ensemble step up to perform the show stopper “Turn it Off”. Ashfield’s performance as the repressed gay turning off his feelings “like a light switch” are hidden only until the lights black out and return to show him and the ensemble break into a glorious, glittery tap dancing routine. This is Ashfield’s “Liza” moment and embracing his inner diva he leads a fabulously camp routine. These suppressed moments rear their head throughout the show with Ashfield switching on and off the campness with real aplomb. A special mention must also go to Alexia Khadime who plays Nabulungi; she appears to be made for this role. Her vocals soared on “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” showing the desperate emotion of her situation and the duet between her and Gertner in “Baptize Me” is another highlight.
If you like musicals you’ll love this. if you like satire you’ll love it too. If you like musical satire you’re in for a real treat. Yes the show might be considered sacrilegious and ungodly, but Parker, Stone and Lopez mock everyone from Mormons, Jews and Christians alike, so there really is no need for anyone to feel singled out. This show has a raw earthy satire that at times touches a nerve and “Hasa Diga Eebowai” (or go f**k you God) just about sums it up. May this run for a very long time