Book of MormonThere has often been comment that musicals don’t appeal to young people and the bulk of the audience is often made up of people of a certain age. This may be a hideous generalisation on my part and I apologise. However, whilst there are some of us youngsters who enjoy the revivals and mega-musicals, there aren’t many shows appealing to our youthful sensibilities. Which is why, as I sit looking at shows that have closed and shows yet to open this year, I wonder if there is a change happening.

Jason Robert Brown is a composer who is popular amongst young performers. His shows may not be big hits but he is an innovator and young performers have latched on to his work. Brown also sums up how we young folk can often see musical theatre – myself included – “People of my generation think of musical theatre as being a fuddy-duddy and corny art form. I don’t think they even think of it as an art form.” This is perhaps true as most of us involved with A Younger Theatre are in our mid-twenties or younger so have grown up with shows such as Phantom of the Opera and Cats dominating the London stages. There have been a few productions in recent years that have started to shift the target audience of new work towards younger people and who are not afraid to rock the boat – who can forget the Jerry Springer: The Opera debacle? Avenue Q is a naughty Sesame Street with hilarious songs such as ‘The Internet is for Porn’ and whilst most adults will find a song about the proliferation of internet porn hilarious it is probably the younger generations who have grown up with the internet and are very tech savvy who will find it the most humorous. Loserville, which closed at the start of this year, was also fascinating as a new musical theatre piece created by young people, starring young people and pretty much for young people.

This year’s big story is of course The Book of Mormon. The show has had amazing success in America and it has finally opened here in London, breaking advance ticket sales records It is made by the creators of South Park and one of the composers of Avenue Q, this tells you that audience members of a nervous disposition may not enjoy this show (my mum has already refused point blank to see it after seeing a clip on the BBC’s Culture Show); to be honest I wasn’t sure I would like it as I have never been a fan of South Park. Yet listening to the soundtrack has me in stitches every time especially with its lampooning of musical theatre itself. Yet it does it out of love and the same is true of its treatments of Mormons, it isn’t mocking any the religion out of malice.

Having grown up with exposure to controversial comedians and play-it-safe musicals, it is refreshing to be able to go sit in a theatre and here them singing the C-word or making fun of The Lion King and other musicals. Love it or hate it, The Book of Mormon is a young show and it makes me very excited for the future of musical theatre.

Photo: Gavin Creel as Elder Price in The Book of Mormon. Photo (c) Joan Marcus.