REVIEW: The Book of Mormon

Rating: ★★★★★
Quick Summary: The man sat next to me turned to his girlfriend at the interval and whispered “I think I just wet myself a little bit.” Enough said.

So. ‘The Book of Mormon’. Obviously, this show has had rave reviews all over the board, and the prices are pretty steep, so my expectations were HIGH.

‘The Book of Mormon’ is playing at the Prince of Wales theatre in London, just off Piccadilly Circus. My seat was C7 of the circle, which cost me £59.75. Considering this was one of the cheapest tickets for the show, I was expecting it to be one of the cheaper views of the show; i.e. visibility would be ok, but not anything special. However, the circle seating is really steeped, and so the view from any of the seats is pretty fantastic. You can see the whole depth and width of the stage from this seat, and I can imagine that the view is clear from most seats. Not to mention, the people sat in front of you are not an obstruction in the slightest.

Also, if you are a massive music nerd like me, then from these seats you can see directly into the pits, which for me is a nice little perk.

Finally, in terms of the theatre, I feel like I have to mention how ridiculously nice the staff at the Prince of Wales were. I know that most theatre staff are friendly, but the Prince of Wales staff were above and beyond in their customer service.

In terms of the show in general, I feel that everyone knows that it is funny. It is hilarious. However, what I wasn’t quite anticipating was how cleverly funny it is (then again, coming from South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone, alongside Robert Lopez, we would expect nothing less.)

The musical takes an abundance of hard-hitting topics, such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic, gender inequality, race, oppression of the LGBT community, finding purpose in your life, and mental health, and talks about them in a comedic light. This is so important, because comedy is inherently accessible, and so talking about these crucial topics through comedy brings them to the surface in pop culture conversation. Not only does it bring them to the surface, but it also starts to shave away the taboos surrounding them.

If you’re not in it for the philosophies behind the comedy, then you can still get so much out of the play because of the combination of slapstick comedy, dry and witty humour, and impeccable comedic timing.

The cast currently on the West End are also massive contributors to the success of the show. Because the Andrew Rannells/Josh Gad interpretation is so distinct, and is the cast recording, so is the sound that people generally associate with ‘The Book of Mormon’, I think it is quite difficult to have an authentic voice and sound in the parts of Elder Kevin Price and Elder Arnold Cunningham. Having said this, Dom Simpson (West End debut) and J. Michael Finley (West End debut) do an incredible job of bringing something new to the roles. The characters are cheesy, and sometimes the ‘typical showy broadway actions’ sway slightly towards being annoying, but the delivery of the characters was so convincing I really didn’t care. The fact that Dom Simpson is only 2 years out of training, and playing this large role at such a high standard is testament to his talent and hard work. Another notable performance was Leanne Robinson as Nabulungi (West End debut). Her vocals were edging towards perfect, with an amazing flexibility and tone control, especially in “Hasa Diga Eebowai” (Reprise)”, is really admirable.


One downside of the show is that it is pretty expensive. I went on my own (I’m super cool and really enjoy going to shows on my own) but if you were paying for two of you, or for a whole family, the prices start to pick up. It is not as expensive as Hamilton, but generally you would only get tickets below £50 at the back half of the circle, which is quite steep and potentially not ideal for vertigo sufferers. I would say either queue for returns or book at least 12 weeks in advance because then you’ll avoid booking fees. Although it is expensive, the quality of the day/night out you will get from it is well worth the money, in my opinion.

Another note is that if you have youngish children/you’re offended by strong language, there is very strong explicit language in the show, quite consistently.

Overall, the show is hilarious. But, more than that, there is an overriding positive message throughout the show, and it touches on some really important societal topics, and is the sort of show that keeps your brain ticking as you keep noticing and remembering things days later. I have a friend who said she knew someone who didn’t want to see it because they thought it was anti-Christian. My message regarding this is absolutely don’t rule it out because of preconceptions you might have. The play undoubtedly is using Mormon practice as a means for comedy, but also it acknowledges positive sides of religion, such as how it can help people, and give them hope.

Just go and watch it.

 

The current cast of The Book of Mormon on the West End features Dom Simpson as Elder Price, J. Michael Finley as Elder Cunningham, Leanne Robinson as Nabulungi, Steven Webb as Elder McKinley Richard Lloyd King as Mafala Hatimbi, and Michael Moulton as the General.

Rosie x

REVIEW: Bat Out of Hell

Rating: ★★
Quick summary: Loved the music, maybe not for the West End?

I’ve tried to make it spoiler free…..! There are a couple of really tiny ones. 

Having been brought up to fully and completely appreciate rock music by my amazing super cool Dad (he features in the Hamilton review, go check it out), ‘Bat Out of Hell’ was a musical I knew I needed to go and see when it returned to the West End in 2018. Also, if you live in London then you will know there are an incredible amount of posters advertising it on the tube, so I got my act together and booked it.

When you walk into the Dominion Theatre, the atmosphere is immediately set. The lighting is dark, there are eerie dystopian sound effects that are kind of mechanical sounding, and images of bats on fire scrolling across the main screen. This was one of the only shows I’ve seen where before the show has even begun, the music and setting is active. As far as the structure of the theatre itself, you can see right up through all the riggings above the stage, which really gives the impression of being massive. The dystopian, industrial theme was continued in the architecture of the theatre with exposed concrete grid slabs as the ceiling where all the lighting rigs are. Disappointingly, for my show, which was in fairness a weekday evening show, the theatre was almost half empty, which perhaps made the atmosphere a little lacklustre.

I think a main point I took away from the show itself is that it is not at all like conventional musical theatre. I personally quite like the moment at the beginning of a show when the curtain comes up, and there’s a grand reveal of the ensemble (think Wicked), or when the house lights dim and a character walks onto the stage for the first time (think Hamilton). In Bat Out of Hell, however, 3 of the main characters kind of drift on stage and tinker about with the props at about 19:20, so just when everyone is still chatting and finding their places. For me, it meant that I started the show slightly confused as opposed to buzzing in my seat at the start.


Character wise, the stand-out performances for me were Rob Fowler as Falco and Sharon Sexton as Sloan. They both had mature and insightful performances that showed the depth of corruption in the world of the show, and in particular Rob Fowler’s vocals were powerful and full of rich tones (unsurprising for someone who has played Jamie in The Last Five Years)

On the day of the show I left feeling really really torn about what I thought about Andrew Polec as Strat and Christina Bennington as Raven. I found both to be quite hyperbolic in their actions and facial expressions, which at first made them quite hard to watch on stage, and meant I didn’t feel like I could really connect with their characters. As the show progressed, I started to understand more about the characters, and came to the conclusion that although it felt over the top, this might be Polec and Bennington nodding to the role of madness in the genre of rock and roll.

I loved the songs, and the vocals were undeniably strong in the show, but that was sort of it for me; I spent the majority of the show feeling really torn about whether I liked it or not. There were some really interesting and clever aspects, and some parts that left me plain confused.

The moment when I finally decided what I thought of the show was actually on the tube the other day, when I saw a woman in a Meatloaf shirt. I can totally understand the appeal of Bat Out of Hell if you’re into Meatloaf or Jim Steinman fan. However, I think I would have enjoyed it more as a staged concept album in an arena as opposed to a West End show, and if you’re not a die-hard Meatloaf or Jim Steinman fan, it’s a little harder to enjoy.