*Warning – contains, swearing, spoilers and spooky Mormon hell dreams*
To be honest, I’m still trying to get my head around this show! Thanks to a glitch on the Delfont Mackintosh Theatres website, for a brief period of time a few months ago all £150 premium tickets from July onwards were selling for a mere £15 – that’s a saving of £135 per ticket. Naturally there was a mad scramble to purchase these mythical tickets before the theatre realised their mistake and put the prices back up, and I was one of the lucky few. I was now the proud owner of two, top price stalls tickets for The Book of Mormon, and praying daily that I wouldn’t get an email from the theatre asking for the other £270!
I was originally supposed to attend the show with my Mum but the date crept up on us and by the time we realised, the train fares from Manchester were more than the original ticket price, so I asked my friend Kirstie to come with me instead. Neither of us had seen the show before and had no idea what to expect – we soon discovered that it’s best to watch the show with an open mind!
We were seated slap bang in the middle of row G in the stalls and I could not have asked for a better view. The opening song of the show, “Hello” is absolute genius, so simple in its staging but so effective. We are then introduced to Elder Price played by the ridiculously talented Gavin Creel. You can’t help but fall in love with this camp, egotistical Mormon mincing around the stage and being fawned over by the other Mormons. He goes on at great length about how he can’t wait to start his mission in Orlando, Florida. As the Elders are assigned their mission buddies and locations “Two By Two” Elder Price is paired with Elder Cunningham (Jared Gertner) and sent to Uganda.
I fell head-over-heels in love with Jared Gertner the second I saw him – he is just so cute! Elder Cunningham is a short, goofy man with a hilariously high-pitched voice and no concept of personal space, the exact opposite to tall, slim, perfectly groomed Elder Price. The contrast between them is enough to have the crowd in stitches. At the airport Elder Price sings about how he is going to change the world “You and Me (But Mostly Me)” and Gavin Creel acts this out perfectly.
Upon arrival in Uganda they are greeted in song by the locals, who tell the two Elders that whenever anything goes wrong they simply sing “Hasa Diga Eebowai” (Elder Cunningham: Does it mean no worries for the rest of your days?! One of my favourite lines in the show!) After joining in this catchy song, Elder Price stops one of the locals, Mafala Hatimbi, to ask what this magical song means. “Well, Eebowai means “God” and “Hasa Diga means… fuck you. So I guess it means… fuck you God!” Cue a chorus of “fuck you God (in the eye!)” from the entire ensemble. I did warn you!
Elder Price and Elder Cunningham tell the story of the “All American Prophet” to the village but they are not interested – they are too worried about General Butt-fucking-naked coming to the village to circumcise all of their women. Yep. Nabulungi, (Alexia Khadime) who is Mafala’s daughter, is very taken with the idea of going to paradise and sings about “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” (Salt Lake City). Alexia has a stunning voice and, even though she is in her thirties, is very believable as a naive young girl, unlike Gavin Creel who is 38 claiming to be 19. Somehow he makes it work!
The absolute highlight of the show for me was Jared Gernter’s solo “Man Up” right before the end of Act One. After an argument with Elder Price in which Elder Price decides to request a transfer (I actually wanted to jump onto the stage and hug Elder Cunningham at this point – he looked absolutely crushed!) Elder Cunningham decides to stay behind to help the village by himself. Having never actually read the Book of Mormon he decides to improvise slightly with hilarious results.
The second act opens with “Making Things Up Again” which includes cameos from Yoda and Darth Vader – no, really! While Elder Cunningham continues to spin wild tales, Elder Price suffers the “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” which is by far the more bizarre thing I have ever seen on a West End stage. There were sparkly devils dancing around, glazed donuts everywhere and, at one point, Adolf Hitler. When he wakes up Elder Price decides to return to the village but is shocked to find how successful Elder Cunningham is.
Elder Price reaffirms his belief in God and The Book of Mormon (“I Believe”) which was Gavin Creel’s best moment. He was passionate and believable and still with a touch of comedy – a couple of times I was anticipating some big notes and was left a little disappointed but Gavin was note-perfect and mesmerising to watch.
Thanks to Elder Cunningham’s embellished version of the Book of Mormon the whole village now wants to be baptized – cue an absolutely brilliant duet, “Baptize Me” between Nabulungi and Elder Cunningham. It was stuffed full of innuendos and hilarious lyrics and was the perfect tonic to the usual soppy love songs that are all too prevalent in some musicals. The missionaries are so impressed by the Elders in Uganda that they decide to visit them personally and the villagers all want to put on a show about their new-found beliefs – tears were actually rolling down my face I was laughing so hard! As it became obvious what Elder Cunningham had done the looks of horror from the other Mormons and shock and a touch of smugness from Elder Price were absolutely hilarious.
I won’t reveal too much about the ending of the show, only that it received a well-deserved standing ovation. The entire cast is so strong it’s impossible to fault anyone and special mentions have to go to Kevin Harvey and Chris Jarman who have created two absolutely perfect characters. I know I’m gushing but I love love love Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner and the sweet friendship between their characters. This show is surreal and offensive and downright weird in places but I came away from it with a smile on my face and I will definitely be seeing it again soon.