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The Book

Posted on Saturday, March 9th, 2013

Dave!I don't like theater.

I hate musicals.

I have a general distaste for ridiculing somebody's faith.

Which makes the idea of seeing the smash musical The Book of Mormon a strange prospect...

Book of Mormon at Chicago's Bank of America Theater

I enjoyed it.

Not really my thing, but South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone kept it funny enough that I didn't mind all the singing and dancing that usually causes my eyes to roll back into my head. The icing on the cake was the set design, which was really well done.

As for ridiculing the Mormons...

This was a tough one for me. I have Mormon friends who are some of the nicest, most generous people I've ever met. And even though I disagree strongly with the church's monetary political maneuverings against things like marriage equality (which should result in them losing their tax-exempt status)... I don't find their religion to be any more strange or as unusual as any other religion.

And that's where I had a problem.

I'm sure the Christians in the audience were laughing their heads off at some of the more outlandish things that come from The Book of Mormon. "Ha ha ha ha! Those Mormons believe some crazy shit... that's so funny!" Which only leads me to believe that they've never actually read their Bible, because it's filled with all kinds of stuff that's equally hard to believe. Unless you have faith in it. Like the Mormons do in their sacred texts.

Whenever a satire like this is made spoofing Christianity or Islam or Judaism or whatever... people go ape-shit. But the Mormons? They have a sense of humor about it all. They take out ads in the Playbill...

The Book Is Always Better!

This made me feel a little less guilty for laughing along with the crowd, but I couldn't get it out of my head how a chunk of the audience would have a very different reaction if it was their faith that was being poked fun of.

Anyway, back to the show...

Book of Mormon Poster

The Book of Mormon is a play in two acts. It tells the story of two young Mormons who get sent on a mission to a poor and war-torn area of Uganda. One of them is Elder Price, who is the perfect example of the Mormon faithful, and confident he will succeed in his task to convert Africans to Mormonism. The other is Elder Cunningham, who is basically playing Jonah Hill acting more annoying and stupid than usual, and is the polar opposite of Elder Price.

As the story proceeds, Price starts losing his faith as the task at hand ends up being much more difficult than he ever imagined... and Cunningham becomes an accidental hero thanks to his talent for telling lies. Hilarity (and I mean genuinely funny hilarity) ensues.

Overall, the play is as good as everybody you've ever known who has seen it has said it is. I think it gets a bit sloppy and disjointed in the second act, but it's not a deal-breaker. Parker and Stone (along with Robert Lopez) reveal true genius here, and there's some unexpected sweetness woven into the story that makes it pretty irresistible.

But not for everyone.

The two people sitting next to me arrived very late, taking their seats just as the Hasa Diga Eebowai number was in full swing. It's basically a song where the natives are saying "fuck you, God" as a way of dealing with the abject misery that fills their every waking hour.

They left at intermission and never came back. They let their displeasure be known, however... their Playbills were ripped to pieces and laying on the floor.

I guess everybody is entitled to their opinion, but how in the fuck can you show up to The Book of Mormon at this stage of the game and not know what you're in for? I guess they are just really uninformed. Or totally stupid. Or both.

Oh well. It certainly made me more comfortable to have the extra room.

So... for anybody in Chicago who has a tolerance for naughty words and a bit of blasphemy... I recommend seeing The Book of Mormon if you get a chance. The cast was incredibly talented, the story inspired and, even if you hate musical theater like me, there's enough to make it worth your time and hard-earned money.

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Categories: Books, Dave Approved, Music 2013, Travel 2013Click To It: Permalink


  1. TheQueen says:

    I remember in high school a friend quizzed me about Southern Baptist belief in Jonah and the whale and creation and other myths, and I just said, that’s trivia. It’s just all about the relationship with God. I am sure Mormons have the same view of this play. It’s all about the relationship with God and the community. Now, Ugandans, they’re the ones who shold be insulted.

  2. Rachel says:

    Its funny you said that Elder Cunningham is Jonah Hill acting more stupid. The original guy who played him is Josh Gad,who does a Jonah Hill impression on the horrible 1600 Penn.

  3. Stacey says:

    The people like the ones sitting next to you intrigue me. Don’t folks at least check out what a show is about before they buy tickets? Last weekend my husband and I were given free seats to American Idiot. I doubted it would be his thing, but since the tickets were free and we don’t get out often, he accepted them. We watched all these old ladies in furs filing in. To a show based on the music of Green Day. I can’t tell you how many people left after the opening number. Interesting experience.

  4. Nicole says:

    That couple remind me of the saying, “a fool and his money are soon parted”. Those tickets are far from cheap, which is why I haven’t see the musical myself, so it seems ridiculous they wouldn’t do a little research first. Glad to hear you liked it, though, as I would like to see it if it’s still around once I have the money to do so.

  5. TheQueen says:

    I don’t want to defend the couple, but they sat down and heard “Fuck you God in the ass, mouth, and cunt, fuck you in the eye, fuck you in the other eye” and that’s the CHORUS.

  6. Troy says:

    I actually had a couple of chats with a couple of Mormon missionaries who came to my door. I told them at the beginning that I was just interested in finding out what they believe and they weren’t going to convert me.

    Throughout the meetings I thought “I don’t believe any of this stuff but it’s really no crazier than any other religion”.

    It didn’t hurt that they were cute girls 🙂

  7. timothy says:

    Well, I was a Mormon missionary once, and I have lived in Uganda for more than 10 years. I find Book of Mormon hilarious.

  8. James Bow says:

    I haven’t seen the play yet (it’s prohibitively expensive where I am), but my mother-in-law provided me with the music and we listened and read about the plot. And I have to say that one thing I really like about this play is that while it pokes fun at religion, it is very respectful towards faith. The two are really separate if you think about it, and yes, all religions have some element of the bizarre within them.

  9. I really think we should write a “Book of Jesus”, just to test your theory. 😉

  10. martymankins says:

    Glad you enjoyed the performance. This is high on my list to see, although oddly enough, it’s still years away from coming to Salt Lake. We have our own local theater group that parodies the Mormons (called Saturday’s Voyer) and it’s quite popular.

  11. Matt says:

    They aren’t picking on Mormons… (an easy target – ‘hello!’).

    They are challenging that part of all of us that wants to believe in stories and blindly follow something… whether it be Mormons, Republicans, relationships, Buddhists, whatever…

    At least, that’s what I took from it. I thought the play was brilliant. You have to check your ego at the door, though… very offensive 🙂

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