Religion has always been a sensitive (sometimes controversial) topic of discussion throughout history – everyone has their own personal perspective about it, which has (in my opinion) been a contributing factor to nearly all the conflicts in the world at any given point in time and space from an interpersonal to a global scale. Everyone has the right to believe in any of the multitude of religious teachings (organized or not) and should be able to do so without fear. There is a solemnity to each religion’s rituals and scripture, which makes it all the more interesting when its tales are adapted for musical theatre. There are several musicals that handle the topic of religion well, such as Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (to name but a few). Then there’s The Book of Mormon, which takes a more comedic (almost borderline vulgar yet not overtly offensive) route. I obtained this ticket through a mutual friend who had gotten the ticket but had been unable to go. While the show was not too high on my “must see” shows, despite the rave critical and audience reviews over the past 8 years, I was interested to see if the show lived up to all its hype.
The Book of Mormon tells the tale of a pair of Mormon missionaries sent to spread their teachings to a remote village in Uganda and is met with apathy from the locals, who are dealing with disease, famine and oppression. The pair, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, eventually find a way to get through to the villagers, while at the same time, test (and renew) their own faith in their mission.
Given that the show was created by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, best known for creating the animated series South Park, there’s an expectation of vulgarity and borderline offensive stereotypes sprinkled throughout the narrative – and the show has it in spades. While their type of humor is not the kind I gravitate towards, I liked the narrative structure; the songs were catchy and the overall scenic design was great; though my only criticism is that the body mics and overall sound (at least from the mezzanine) was turned up too loud, muffling much of the dialogue to the point that I couldn’t make out some of what was said – maybe this was a quirk of being in the mezzanine, or it might have been unique to the performance I attended. The cast was hilarious – many of whom were making their Broadway debut.
The stage door scene was surprisingly almost nonexistent, thought that might have been due to the (slightly) inclement weather – it had been raining most of the day, and there was a gentle rain after the show ended (and there was no marquee overhang above the stage door). A few of the cast came out to sign playbills and pose for photos for the handful of audience members who stayed.
Overall The Book of Mormon was a fun show and not as offensive as I would have thought it would be (given the reputation of its primary creative team), but it’s not a show I’d see again, even thought I’d recommend it to others.