Broadway sensation "The Book of Mormon" has landed in London, to a warm reception from theatergoers and mixed notices from critics
Reviewers delivered their verdicts on the show Friday, after an opening night that counted celebrities including "Homeland" star Damian Lewis and Duran Duran singer Simon Le Bon among the audience.
The exuberantly profane show by "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and "Avenue Q" composer Robert Lopez tells the story of two Mormon missionaries sent to spread the word in Uganda.
Most critics praised the production's skill and energy, though the Daily Telegraph's Charles Spencer said "its mixture of satire and syrup ultimately proves repellent."
Daily Mail critic Quentin Letts was even less enthusiastic: "I tired of it after 10 minutes."
And the Guardian's Michael Billington judged it "mildly amusing. ... a safe, conservative show for middle America."
Reviewers were full of praise for stars Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner as the young missionaries Elder Price and Elder Cunningham. Libby Purves in The Times loved the "big belting numbers, witty lyrics and joyfully athletic dances," but was troubled by the show's message.
She said the musical, "beneath its jollity, is morally null and — without seeming to notice it — racist."
"I don't see any Ugandans wanting to" see it, she said. "Even though the dances are great."
The Independent's Paul Taylor was more positive, saying: "I absolutely loved it — albeit slightly guiltily."
Several critics compared the show unfavorably to "Jerry Springer: the Opera," a British musical that drew angry protests from some Christians.
Far from picketing "The Book of Mormon," the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints took out three pages of ads in the program, telling audience members: "You've seen the play ... now read the book."
"The Book of Mormon" won nine Tony Awards in 2011, including best musical, and is a hot ticket in London, where it is sold out through July at the Prince of Wales Theatre.
Among audience members at one preview performance was Prime Minister David Cameron, who was seen laughing heartily throughout.
Stone was impressed the prime minister had attended.
"That would not happen in America," he said. "A politician just wouldn't come to ... they just wouldn't be seen near our (stuff). No way. If you want to get elected, you don't go near Matt and Trey."
Associated Press writer Hilary Fox contributed to this report.
Jill Lawless can be reached at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless