Posted by EpicSteve (6490 posts) -

EDIT: Saw The Book of Mormon and really digged it. This review is a tad more formal than my usual stuff. It's going in a newspaper.

The Book of Mormon manages to satirize, offend, evoke laughter, make powerful statements on religion, and be heartwarming and irreverent all at the same time. The show brings in $19.5 million every month on average, making it the most successful musical in four decades. The show also recently swept through the Tony awards winning virtually every major award including Best Musical, Best Actress, and Outstanding Music.

Written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park fame and musical writer, Robert Lopez, The Book of Mormon stems from Parker and Stone’s huge success in writing music for South Park along with their satirical take on American exceptionalism, Team America: World Police (2004).

The show is certainly much more crude than most Broadway goers are probably used to. There are tons of subtle (and not too subtle) sexual references and vulgar language. Yet like the past few years of South Park, the vulgarity isn’t there for shock value like Family Guy.

The musical tells the story of two Mormons on a missionary trip to Uganda to convert locals. The pair try to share their religious text that they believe is the third part of the Bible, The Book of Mormon. Only one of the missionaries have actually read the book and the Uganda village is more concerned with the war, famine, AIDS, and poverty that have always plagued them. The Mormons try to convince the villagers to seek help through Christ and slowly the pair question if faith is enough to combat serious problems.

The Book of Mormon certainly has the South Park flavor of sensibility and edge. The show points at the absurdity at Mormonism, and that is arguably just a platform to lampoon against religion as a whole. On the surface, the entire musical satirizes organized religion and challenges the credibility of Mormonism.

Yet, The Book of Mormon manages to be gentle at the same time. Yes, it presents people of faith as cartoonish and gullible. For instance in the song “I Believe”, the protagonist is recovering his faith and sings lines like, “And I believe God lives on a planet called Kolob, and in 1978 God changed his mind about black people!”. Those two statements are official stances the church takes and the character totally sings these lines as genuine beliefs, but is presented with a wink and nod to how silly the established church can be.

The Mormons are still presented as great and optimistic people that are just out there in the world doing their best. The ending is heartwarming and communicates that no matter how ridiculous or illogical religious doctrine might be that doesn’t take away from its power.

The Book of Mormon has the potential be offensive but it still managed to be one of the most harmonious pieces of entertainment I’ve seen. Stone and Parker are far more endearing to religion as opposed to someone like Bill Maher. On the surface there are constant jabs at religion, AIDS jokes, and suggests that the Mormon profit Joseph Smith was a total fraud. The show also flirts with the idea that religion is in a vicious cycle of reinventing itself to gain control over people. Upon further examination, nothing in the play comes off as malicious. Instead it feels like it’s trying to communicate that while a lot of beliefs are silly, Mormons are still incredibly charming.

I laughed at all the songs and jokes and appreciated the smart score. The Book of Mormon had me walk away appreciating the Mormons. It commands the audience to still respect these people. Despite being apart of a church, the group manages to be extremely devout, polite, and hardworking people. The play is more of a friendly hazing than rude. Stone and Parker continue to be the masters of crude humor while building a subtle and powerful punchline in the background.

Below is a video from the play showcasing the song I referenced:

@stevenbeynon

#1 Posted by mercutio123 (471 posts) -

I saw it in November in London. Loved it. Though it is pretty one note by the end and maybe goes on a bit too long. Stellar opening though and the songs were great.

#2 Posted by audioBusting (1612 posts) -

How are you going to embed that video on the newspaper? Just kidding, great review. I always appreciate optimistic depictions of religious people, because as silly as religion can be, religious people are generally nice. I hope this ever comes to Australia so I can watch it too...

#3 Posted by crimsinf (145 posts) -

I have tickets to see the touring production next month. I can't wait. Also, I didn't know that Robert Lopez was behind the music for this (and Avenue Q as well, if Google is to be believed). I wasn't familiar with his work until I saw Disney's Frozen, which features some fantastic music. What I've heard of this show's soundtrack is also great. Thanks for posting this.

#4 Posted by EpicSteve (6490 posts) -

@ccforua said:

I have tickets to see the touring production next month. I can't wait. Also, I didn't know that Robert Lopez was behind the music for this (and Avenue Q as well, if Google is to be believed). I wasn't familiar with his work until I saw Disney's Frozen, which features some fantastic music. What I've heard of this show's soundtrack is also great. Thanks for posting this.

Check with the theater that's doing it for lotteries. I saw the show in Cincinnati and my girlfriend went to the theater on the morning before it player. She entered her name, they were selling 20 orchestra (front row) tickets for $25 a piece. A winner can buy two. So essentially, 10 people will win.

#5 Posted by Aetheldod (3626 posts) -

Wait a second.... people go to theater still? D:

On the subject matter.... well I´ve never met a real mormon so I cant tell if the are bad people or not. But living in country full of catholics I know what you mean about people not really being bad.

#6 Posted by EpicSteve (6490 posts) -

Wait a second.... people go to theater still? D:

On the subject matter.... well I´ve never met a real mormon so I cant tell if the are bad people or not. But living in country full of catholics I know what you mean about people not really being bad.

Mormon are specifically the most fucking polite people, ever. The official church even trolled the play and advertised in the little play book that's given out to the audience. The little thing that shows the cast and such.

#7 Posted by BBOYS2231 (200 posts) -

Been looking to get tickets to this. Thanks for the review!

#8 Edited by TowerSixteen (544 posts) -

You know, choosing Mormonism to parody strikes me as incredibly savvy. Because it makes general criticisms that could be applied to organized religion at large, it could make those also critical of religion happy. But because it's a rather minor religious offshoot, the vast majority of religious people could view it not as a criticism of their religion but of Mormonism in particular where they would otherwise disagree, perhaps even seeing (and enjoying) tacit praise of their own religion when something in Mormonism is painted as ridiculous for something not present or different in their own creed . That minimizes the people who could take real offence while maximizing audience draws.

#9 Posted by davidwitten22 (1708 posts) -

As someone who grew up in a Mormon household I found this play absolutely hilarious. It's certainly not the first time the South Park guys have made fun of Mormonism (the South Park episode about Mormons is by far my favorite one, even though when I saw it I still went to church and all that), but they always portray Mormons as nice and gentle people (which is true) who are a little overzealous. I went to church for 13 years and still don't understand the "Kolob" jokes (never once mentioned in primary school, we were taught that when you died you were placed in one of three heavenly "planes" based on your deeds on Earth) but mostly it was pretty funny and sadly accurate. Though I am an atheist now I still credit my Mormon upbringing for a lot of my morals. I would never suggest that my family watches this (as they are much more sensitive than I ever was about my faith), but there's certainly some lessons to learn.

#10 Edited by EpicSteve (6490 posts) -

@davidwitten22 said:

As someone who grew up in a Mormon household I found this play absolutely hilarious. It's certainly not the first time the South Park guys have made fun of Mormonism (the South Park episode about Mormons is by far my favorite one, even though when I saw it I still went to church and all that), but they always portray Mormons as nice and gentle people (which is true) who are a little overzealous. I went to church for 13 years and still don't understand the "Kolob" jokes (never once mentioned in primary school, we were taught that when you died you were placed in one of three heavenly "planes" based on your deeds on Earth) but mostly it was pretty funny and sadly accurate. Though I am an atheist now I still credit my Mormon upbringing for a lot of my morals. I would never suggest that my family watches this (as they are much more sensitive than I ever was about my faith), but there's certainly some lessons to learn.

I specifically read a bunch of reviews by alleged Mormons and they all basically said what you said. Like I said, it's a "friendly hazing". It's poking fun without ever being mean spirited. Stone and Parker also said in an interview they can tell who the Mormons in the audience are because there are specific jokes that only the religious followers will likely get.

#11 Posted by Fobwashed (2117 posts) -

Well written! Put into words perfectly why I feel I enjoyed this musical =]

#12 Posted by Quid_Pro_Bono (303 posts) -

Parker and Stone are pretty unique in their satire in that they tend to respect the people they're poking fun at. I remember a commentary track for one of the older seasons of South Park where Parker said that he knew tons of Mormons growing up and he loved them because they were always incredibly nice to him, so he began to develop this fascination with the religion that led to Orgazmo's main character, the South Park episode, and apparently culminated in this musical. I really would love to see it but don't have the cash to drop at the moment. Hopefully it'll tour for a good long while.

#13 Posted by Sergio (2160 posts) -

I saw it last December in San Francisco. I thought it was funny that the playbill had ads for the LDS. I think it quipped that now that you've seen this Book of Mormon, you should try reading this Book of Mormon.