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The Book of Mormon

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Think you don’t like musicals? How about one by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the guys behind South Park and Team America… 

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Of course, some of Stone and Parker’s classic moments have seen them dabbling with hammy showtunes. Who can forget numbers like ‘Mr Hanky the Christmas Poo’ and Kim Jong-Il’s power ballad ‘I’m So Ronery’? Add Robert Lopez to their team, co-creator of puppet musical Avenue Q (sample songs: “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist” and “The Internet Is For Porn”), and you’ve got quite a different beast to West Side Story and the von Trapp kids.

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The Book of Mormon hits London’s West End next week, following the success of sell-out runs in the US and nine Tony Awards. It's all a bit of a surprise for a musical whose satirical fire is aimed at religion. “I don’t know how they get away with it,” says Gavin Creel, who stars as Mormon poster-boy Elder Price. “They do try to offend everybody, so that no one is offended!”

Creel is joined by his co-star Jared Gertner, who plays the bumbling religious novice Elder Cunningham. In Mormon, their characters’ missionary zeal comes up against resistance when they are sent to a remote, poverty-stricken village in Uganda. In one number the locals sing ‘Hasa Diga Eebowai’, a ‘Hakuna Matata’ parody that translates as ‘Fuck you God’. Controversial much?

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Gavin-Creel-(Elder-Price,-centre),-Jared-Gertner-(Elder-Cunningham,-right)-and-the-cast-of-The-Book-of-Mormon

“There will be moments where you’ll say ‘This is too much’,” admits Gertner. “But if you hang on and get to the end of the show, you realise everything was put in for a reason. It has so many great and surprisingly pro-faith things to say – but you’ll have to watch the whole thing to get that.”

And how do they feel Mormon will to translate to British audiences? We are, after all, famously less animated than our American counterparts. “Your nationality are less, maybe… demonstrative,” reflects Creel. “[Mormon’s] got this all-American energy that is just relentless. British audiences are going to be a bit like [raises eyebrows] at first. But by the end they’ll be leaning completely in.”

Mormon’s appeal as a bad taste-fest (with a heart) has certainly managed to draw in people otherwise less inclined to spend an evening watching jazz hands. “People come in, like, teenage boys with South Park t-shirts, and guys dragging their wives in,” enthuses Gertner. “It’s brought in a whole new crowd.”

The Book of Mormon opens 25th February, Prince of Wales Theatre

Words by Stephanie Soh

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