UK & World News
Book Of Mormon Opens To Praise In London
It has broken box office records on Broadway, won nine Tony awards and a Grammy, and now one of the most successful musicals of the past few years has come to London's West End.
The show in question isn't an adaptation of a successful film franchise like so many recent stage hits, nor is it a revival of a tried-and-tested favourite of musical theatre with Andrew Lloyd Webber at the helm.
Instead this blockbuster centres on a movement in American society which previously seemed unlikely to grace a theatre stage: Mormons.
The Book of Mormon, which officially opened at the Prince of Wales Theatre on Thursday night, certainly is not your usual musical fare.
It tells the story of two young Mormon elders in Salt Lake City who graduate from their studies then embark on a mission of faith to Uganda in the hope of converting the natives.
As plots go, it's not exactly Cats.
Not only is the storyline a novel one for theatre-goers, the content is almost certainly the most outrageous and controversial since Jerry Springer: The Opera prompted thousands of Christian groups to protest in 2005.
With the writers of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker behind the show, it will come as no surprise that the language turns the theatre air blue and that no topic is off limits.
Parker said: "We kind of knew, at least comedy wise, it would do well here because we really consider ourselves to be raised on British comedy because of Python and everything."
"We consider ourselves to have a British sense of humour, so we thought it would translate here pretty well."
Stone added: "We never really set out to shock anybody with the musical. Certain parts of it ... does have this material, but that was never the idea behind it."
Audience jaws may drop at the representation of Mormons, Africans, gay people and Jews or the scene set in hell featuring Adolf Hitler and American serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.
However, given the box office takings in the US, where the show has also gone on tour, it seems more likely they will lap up this rather wicked satire.
It's been proved time and again in popular culture that controversy is a great way of stirring up publicity, and The Book of Mormon is backed by a campaign that has generated the most crucial ingredient in making a smash - hype.
Londoners will already be familiar with posters that have been plastered across tube stations since last year.
While the fact that producers have not released any promotional clips since it opened in New York in 2011 can only have ramped up the curiosity of musical lovers.
It's a tactic that's worked - while the original production made back its considerable costs in just nine months and broke weekly box office records, the London run is completely sold out for evening performances until June.
Such is the demand that promoters are even holding a daily lottery which draws tickets for 20 lucky fans who enter their names into a tombola.
But big publicity and an even bigger shock factor would mean nothing if the show wasn't any good, but the critics love it.
Theatre critic Sam Marlowe said: "It's really naughty satire, but it has an enormous heart. It's really good fun and it leaves you with an unbelievable hallelujah buzz feeling."
Even as the West End enjoys a healthy year in ticket sales, this kind of success is as unusual as the subject matter.
And if anyone's offended they might want to look to the Mormons themselves - they've take out an ad in the show's programme saying: "You've seen the Book of Mormon, now read the real thing!"
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