After watching The Book of Mormon twice, separated by about 3 months, I must say I am not certain exactly how I should review this show. The performances were both enjoyable, but the experiences were very different.
My first visit to The Book of Mormon was the first West End theatrical performance I had attended after a 2 year hiatus. It was thrilling to make a return to musical theatre with The Book of Mormon, one of the biggest and most popular musicals in the West End right now. Without a doubt, the show contained everything I wished to find and missed about theatre: glamour, professionalism and passion to name a few.
The script and the lyrics are exceedingly witty, as expected from the creators of South Park. Indeed, after speaking to Christian friends who had also seen the show on separate occasions, they found the show to be insulting but hysterical nonetheless. No members of audience left the performance half way through as far as I could tell, which can only be a good sign that the humor was generally accepted.
This is not a musical that relies on backbreaking dance routines, choreography, glittering costumes or echoing vocals. The stage is also simple in design. However, these more simple set-ups work marvelously with the flow of the story and perhaps it is also due to this that it is much easier for the audience to be absorbed into the performance without distractions from the other aspects of the show.
Over two separate occasions, I have witnessed the portrayal of the Elder Price character by Nic Rouleau and also Ross Hunter (understudy). Whilst some members of the audience seemed disappointed by the fact that the performance they had attended was given by an understudy, I felt a refreshing change. Both Rouleau and Hunter brought something unique and special to the Price character, and I did not feel that I could rank one above the other from what I had seen. The cast also features musical theatre veterans Alexia Khadime and Brian Sears who played the roles of Nabulungi and Elder Cunningham respectively. Whilst Rouleau, Hunter and Khadime all put up outstanding and professional performances, Sears was the one that had attracted my attention.
Cunningham is an awkward character, and Sears displayed this trait incredibly well through the musical numbers “I’m here for you”, “Man Up” and “Baptize Me”. In fact, the awkward dances, movements and weird faces he pulled appeared to come quite naturally to him. It makes me wonder that Sears’s own personality might be a good fit for the Cunningham character in general.
Although effective, I did find some of facial expressions Sears did might be slightly over the top. I enjoyed many of the musical numbers, mostly due to the lyrics. “Man up”, “Turn it off” and “Baptize me” in particular, were beautifully done. However, “Turn it off”, led by Stephen Ashfield, is the winning song for me. Not only is the song painstakingly funny, but it also describes the inner turmoil faced by these young Mormon missionaries. One thing I will point out though, is that there is a fair bit of inconsistencies in the tap dancing routine in this number. In the first performance I attended, the routine was crisp and the movements between the Mormon ensembles were largely in synch. However, this was clearly not the case for my second visit, affecting the heat and passion that I had for this song.
As I have already mentioned, this musical does not appear to rely on meticulous technical effects in the dancing, singing or the lighting. The things that this show does depend on are the element of surprise and novelty. Those in the audience unfamiliar with the show would have their jaws dropped to the floor with the comments made and the lyrics sung, followed most likely, by howls of laughter. These are classic and textbook traits of a good and successful comedy. However, upon the second visit, it is clear the moments that I found hysterical the first time were still funny, but far less enticing.
This is definitely a very attractive, funny and deservingly successful musical. The novelty from The Book of Mormon is not a trait that can be found easily in other musicals. Therefore, I would recommend passionate theatregoers to see the show, but try to take in as much information and fun the first time, because it will not be the same experience watching a comedy again hoping for the same level of satisfaction.
original review published on lastminutetheatretickets.com