My first encounter with Mormons was through Donny et al. The Osmonds exposed thousands of teenage girls to a way of life they never knew existed. Here was a group of clean cut, all American boys with mega-watt smiles and winning personalities.
They were shortly followed by a pair of young missionaries that my mother invited into the house because she knew no different. They were lovely wholesome chaps but were on a hiding to nothing in a house full of atheists.
Fast forward to the 21st century and the advent of The Book of Mormon, the anarchic, un-PC musical which has split the London critics over whether it is the most over-hyped show on earth or a must see production.
I bought a ticket months ago, before the media hysteria, but had to first undergo a grilling at the box office by an earnest young man who feared that I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for.
I’m glad I held my guns. I hate to go against authorised opinion but I started laughing seconds into the performance (at The Prince of Wales Theatre in the heart of the West End) and my jaw was aching painfully by the interval.
It’s one of the most original, irreligious and outrageous musicals since Jerry Springer. I haven’t laughed so much in years.
It’s penned by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park and if you love their sense of humour then you’ll enjoy BoM - and there is the divide. This isn’t for you if you’re easily offended.
Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner, as Mormon missionaries Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, have come over from the Broadway production to star in the London show and they made a convert out of me.
Creel plays the pin-up boy for the cause to perfection, right down to his dazzling smile and winning personality.
In a cruel twist of circumstance, he is lumbered with the class dunce who hero worships him and is blessed with a vivid imagination. Gertner sounds like Kermit’s nephew, Robin, but he’s the archetypal nerd – plump, bespectacled, and sporting a head of less than angelic curls.
The couple have just completed basic training and, while their friends get dream assignments in Paris, Japan etc they get Uganda where a warlord is forcing women to be circumcised and life is beyond tough for the mission in the field.
There’s a tremendous sound-track and a lot of incredibly offensive jokes – which I loved. There were a pair of genuine Mormons sitting in my row and at first, because they were dressed identically to the cast on stage, I thought they were part of the production, but they were fee-paying punters who also seemed to enjoy most of the gags.
The Book of Mormon affectionately offends just about everyone at some point, but obviously the Mormon Church in the main. The church has taken it in good part and even taken out advertising in the programme. I can’t imagine some religions being so forgiving or blessed with a sense of humour.
This musical is the nemesis of Joseph and Jesus Christ Superstar but it is such a breath of fresh air in an industry choking on saccharine-sweet family-friendly, bubblegum shows.
I’d love to see it again and I’d recommend it to everyone (except your granny and the under 14s) but it’s almost impossible to get tickets for this year unless you’re willing to pay £127 for a standard seat. The cheaper seats are probably long gone.
Lay siege to the box office 0844 482 5136 or visit www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk to see what you can get.