Broadway: The Book of Mormon

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A lesser known (or often forgotten) fact about me is that I am fascinated by Mormonism. It all started with a school crush (isn't that how a lot of missionaries attract new members?), which led to a lot of reading and was exacerbated by some of the American Idol season 7 contestants. I've dropped by Salt Lake City twice and have loved it both times, though honestly a little intimidated by the LDS Church's omnipresence. Which I wouldn't say is always overt, but to me is somewhat akin to being in the presence of, say, a college professor whose works you have read backwards and forwards and admire greatly. A sort of deferent, respectful feeling of being in the know but not really knowing.

When I heard that a play called "The Book of Mormon" was coming to Broadway, my ears perked up. And they perked up even more when I was informed by my high school alumni association that one of my fellow alumni was one of the people behind the play.

Well, tonight was the big night. I'd avoided most reviews and really had little expectations going into the Eugene O'Neill theatre. I knew it'd be great -- how could it not, really, if it was going to be chock full of Mormon jokes?

It really was great. Even though opening night was just last night, the entire thing ran without a hitch (which is much, much more than can be said about "Spider-Man, Turn Off the Dark"). The staging was fantastic, the casting great, the singing on the spot, the costumes perfect. And the writing, oh the writing! I'm not sure I can think of a Mormon joke that wasn't mentioned. (Well, there was no mention of J-ELLO or funeral potatoes.) From "1978, the year when God changed His mind about Black people," everyone in Salt Lake City having an "open mind" to the campy "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" sequence with giant dancing Starbucks cups haunting and taunting the guilt-ridden Mormon missionary, the "inside jokes" were a LDS Church enthusiast's dream.

But the greatest thing of all about "The Book Of Mormon," which I found to be very unexpected, was its positivity. I definitely did not think the play would leave me with a positive sense of what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is all about, but it did. Cursing and sexual references aside, this play really is for everyone -- LDS or not. It answers directly to the naysayers of the LDS Church -- sure, the religion may not make a heck of a lot of sense and sure, Mormons may have to wear funny undergarments and switch certain feelings off if they are not in accordance to the Church's beliefs, but what it does offer is hope. And a batch of enthusiastic and polite people.

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