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The Infidel – The Musical

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Though David Baddiel’s stage musical version of his 2010 hit comedy film The Infidel inevitably recalls shows such as The Book of Mormon, Monty Python’s Spamalot and Jerry Springer – The Opera, the nice surprise is that it hits a much harder target than any of those. Baddiel boldly takes on the subject of religious difference and intolerance between Jews and Muslims, and even portrays a “weirdy beardy” fundamentalist preacher with comic precision and provocation.

But this is no sledgehammer satire, either. It’s all wrapped up in an alternately sweet and tender portrait of a British-born Muslim family man, Mahmoud Nasir, who finds his world rocked when he discovers his birth name was in fact Solomon “Solly” Shimshillewitz, and he was adopted as a baby by a Muslim family. Meanwhile, his son Rashid is about to marry Ji-Ji, whose new stepfather is the aforementioned preacher.

As we follow Mahmoud’s journey to rediscover his inner Jew and meet his dying birth father, the show has an amiable, warm-hearted sincerity that means it is unlikely to cause offence. It is also beautifully held together by the effortlessly charming Kev Orkian as the challenged Mahmoud, and some spirited supporting performances that include Melanie Marshall in various roles, Gary Wood as Mahmoud’s son and Andrew Paul as his Jewish neighbour Lenny, a taxi driver who acts as a guide to his newly discovered heritage.

Erran Baron Cohen’s score is serviceable rather than memorable, and the show feels somewhat over-extended running an hour longer than the original film. But this is an appealing new British musical with heart and serious points to make.

Verdict: Another British film comedy hit is translated to the stage; it may lack polish, but makes up for it with punch

Mark Shenton

  • Theatre Royal Stratford East, London
  • October 4-November 15, PN October 15
  • Authors: David Baddiel book and lyrics, Erran Baron Cohen music, Arvind Ethan David additional material
  • Directors: David Baddiel, Kerry Michael
  • Musical director: Matt Smith
  • Choreographer: Liam Steel
  • Design: Nick Barnes set and costume, Philip Gladwell lighting, Ed Clarke sound, Dick Straker projections
  • Technical: Simon Sturgess production manager, Sarah Buik stage manager, Anne Vosser casting
  • Cast includes: Kev Orkian, Alexander Andreou, Mina Anwar, Siobhan Athwal, Melanie Marshall, Melanie Masson
  • Producers: Theatre Royal Stratford East and Arvind Ethan David
  • Running time: 2hrs 45mins

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Verdict
Another British film comedy hit is translated to the stage; it may lack polish, but makes up for it with punch

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