Despite winning 9 Tony awards and the fact that I was desperate to see what all the fuss was about, I was positive that the most hotly anticipated show to hit the West End in living memory was solely an American phenomenon. Armed with smug determination, I decided to hang on to see what discounts would be offered before parting with my cash.
I couldn’t have been more wrong if I’d mortgaged the house to back “Desperately Seeking Susan – The Blondie Musical”. It has quickly become the hottest ticket in town, with vast swathes of the auditorium being reclassified as “premium” in line with Broadway’s dynamic pricing policy (the greater the demand the higher the price).
Swallowing my pride, I felt mightily pleased with myself when I managed to nab a couple of returns for the final preview before press night.
Unfortunately after spending two and a half hours plumbing the depths of puerile inanity where the word “fuck” is used for endless cheap laughs and where attempts to shock are rarely married to wit, although they are repeated ad nauseum, I wish I hadn’t bothered. Maggots in a scrotum, is that really funny enough to be repeated 6 times?
With book, music & lyrics by Robert Lopez and South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the story follows two young Mormon missionaries, tall handsome self-obsessed Elder Price and short dumpy fantasist Elder Cunningham, as they are sent to spread the word in Uganda. Here they meet an AIDS infected populace and a war-lord, General Butt-Fucking-Naked, who is intent on circumcising all the women. Price temporarily loses his faith, leaving Cunningham to spread his own unique version of the Mormon gospel.
The good news is the cast are incredible. Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner have a ball reprising the lead roles from the US tour, Alexia Khadime proves what a wonderful leading lady she is as Nabulungi, an impressionable young Ugandan woman, and Stephen Ashfield shows his versatility once again in the dual roles of angel Moroni and disillusioned missionary McKinley. Some of the songs are pretty good too, including several in homage to the great musicals of the past (The King & I, The Sound of Music, Lion King), but all too often they sound like they could have been slotted into any number of supposedly blockbuster musicals of the past 10 years (Sister Act, Hairspray, you get my drift).
The huge disappointment is the book, which sounds like it was written by a group of 15 year old boys who have smoked their first joint and think it would be hilarious to try to shock their parents. I love to be shocked, the frisson when I am jolted out of my comfort zone is one of my life’s pleasures, but this is simply boring, mindless, schoolboy drivel. Cunningham’s inability to pronounce Nabulungi’s name becomes wearing after two hours solid. The writers seem to have never heard of the law of diminishing returns, or maybe they were rationing the good “jokes”. Even the ending is writ so large as to be visible from space by the middle of the first act.
I wanted so much to love it and I wouldn’t say that I hated it, but given the huge weight of expectation, it was such a massive anti-climax that I feel like sticking to the fringe forevermore.
Maybe I am simply too old. I am obviously not the target audience, which I imagine to be grown men that still get excited about Doctor Who and the Hobbit.
Anyway don’t take my word for it, it’s already extended to 2014, so if you feel like blowing £127.50 (updated, this is the new premium ticket price!) on a night out, there’s plenty of opportunity to do so.
Booking until 11 January 2014, The Book of Mormon is Fuckin' Borin'.