Is 'The Book of Mormon' For You?
Anyone watching TV in Atlanta right now has seen the ads for the upcoming touring production of The Book of Mormon at the Fox Theatre, running January 28 through February 9.
The commercial below is for the Broadway show, but the gist is the same as the localized version. Rather than give you any sense of what the show’s about, the spot has one basic theme: Everyone loves The Book of Mormon. It’s the best musical of this century! It won nine Tony Awards! IT’S FOR YOU!
There’s one catch: The Book of Mormon is not for everyone.
Me? I saw it during our last trip to New York and loved it. Bought the soundtrack and sing it around the house. (I somehow have not been awarded a Tony for my performance.) But before you shell out $150 for a center orchestra seat, it might helpful to know whether you’ll jump out of that seat to give a standing ovation–or walk out in protest.
Opinions are obviously subjective, but I think it comes down to your thoughts on these three “C” words:
The C-Word: Yes, that c-word. The big one. The queen mother of dirty c-words. The c-dash-dash-dash word. If you can’t stand a single utterance of this word, save your money. One song’s lyrics feature it prominently, down to the final note. As a bonus, it’s implied that God possesses the female body part associated with this word. And that there’s a reproductive action that can be taken with said body part (among others).
Further complicating matters is that this song is also very catchy, meaning you may be doing dishes one night and find yourself belting out this word over and over and feeling pretty confident you’re going straight to Hell.
Cursing: Oh, it doesn’t stop at that c-word. There’s also that other c-word. You know, the name of the female body part that rhymes with the name of Jerry’s girlfriend Dolores in that episode of Seinfeld? Yeah, that’s in there, too. A lot. And a bunch of F-words. The main villain is named General Butt-Fucking Naked. So, there’s that.
The commercial seems to think the phrase “From the creators of South Park” is fair warning about what to expect, and the Fox Theatre site does advise in small print that the show “contains explicit language.” But we’re talking about more than an occasional swear word here and there. Even though it’s all in the context of thoughtful satire, there are still references to female circumcision, raping babies, giving God the middle finger and the biological results of drinking contaminated water.
From what I can tell, there’s no age restriction on tickets. I’d say it’s probably not for anybody younger that 16, and a mature 16 at that.
Church: Depending on your level of belief in any religion, you may be deeply offended by The Book of Mormon. Obviously, most of the jabs are directed specifically at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with a sarcastic telling of the story of Joseph Smith and stereotypical portrayals of Mormon repression.
But the show also calls into question faith itself, implying the narrative of the Bible is no less fictional than Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. At its harshest, the message could be viewed as “People will believe any bullshit you feed them if they’re desperate enough for hope.” The more favorable spin I took away is that faith is a powerful force–both for good and for bad–and ultimately any belief can be made tenable if it’s rooted in love and inspires positive action.
Clearly, if you’re devout in your religion (or in your rejection of religion) one little Broadway show isn’t going to sway your stance. Viewed purely as musical theater, The Book of Mormon succeeds on every level. The songs are fantastic, with clever lyrics and sharp choreography. The smartly-paced story has real stakes and reaches a satisfying ending right when it needs to. This is one of the rare times I was surprised the show was already over instead of eyeing the program to see how many songs were left.
But that’s me. You might love it. You might hate it. You might not care either way. Much like religion, no matter what someone else tells you, the jump is ultimately yours to take.