“I believe that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri”
In terms of first world problems, being constantly distracted by fellow audience member Kate Winslet probably ranks fairly highly but it is symbolic of the utter randomness that can accompany a gala performance. I was lucky enough to attend the opening night of The Book of Mormon which meant that in the haze of A-list to Z-list celebrities, the battle to get into the theatre, the newspaper reviews that had already been published and a thousand and one opinion pieces of one of the cannier marketing campaigns of recent times, it was difficult to separate out just what I really thought of the show itself.
With the show not exactly being the cheapest – premium tickets have now apparently broken the £200 mark for Saturday nights – it hasn’t been easy to find the optimum opportunity to go back (or taken my chances on their lottery). Until now that is, when a rare deal popped into my Twitter feed courtesy of @BargainTheatre and a £40 ticket on the end of row B in the stalls saw me making the trip once again to the Prince of Wales theatre, unencumbered by expectation or excitement and much more able to take in Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone’s show on its own merits.
And I have to say, I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. So much of the hype around the show’s opening would have had you believe it was an earth-shattering piece of brilliance and so it was hard not to react against that as my original review attests. I still don’t think it is the “best musical of this century” as the New York Times would have it but it is fast-paced, filthy and fun and still has a remarkable freshness about it. There’s endless joy in listening to people react to the lyrics, whether for the first time or the fiftieth, especially when they go that little bit further than you’d ever think, every single time.
Currently leading the cast are Americans Nic Rouleau as Elder Price and Brian Sears as Elder Cunningham and both being veterans of the original Broadway cast, there’s a supreme confidence about their performances which is awesome to watch. Rouleau allows a little more self-doubt to creep into his Price from the beginning which makes him all the more empathetic, and Sears’ ceaseless energy just rattles around the stage brilliantly (nipple rings, Nutella, Nicki Minaj and Nigel Farage were my standouts…), their palpable connection keeping the spirit of the show well and truly alive and kicking.
The preternaturally beautiful Denée Benton is a spirited Nabulungi, never better than when she’s letting rip whilst being baptised; original cast members Chris Jarman and Stephen Ashfield remain pitch-perfect, the latter’s repressed Elder McKinley is pretty close to a comic masterpiece; and the strength in depth of the ensemble from marvellous missionaries to virile villagers is consistently inspiring to watch, from Michael Peters’ borderline-illegal rippedness to Cleopatra Rey’s joyous riffing (at least I think it was her). I could never recommend you spend £200 on any show but with The Book of Mormon remaining this good, I’d keep your eyes peeled for deals like I got as it is surely one of the absolute highlights of the current West End.