THE BOOK OF MORMON
While I was in New York City, I saw the musical “Book of Mormon” from the South Park creators, and the creator of Avenue Q.
I bought my kid’s sippy cup filled with OJ and Ketel One, and proceeded to enjoy, for the most part, a musical that is filled with references to AIDS, baby rape, Star Wars, and Mormonism.
Before the show began, there were rumors circulating from the audience in front of me that Hugh Jackman was in the house. Hugh Jackman?? And during intermission, I saw Tony Hawke walk (versus skate) past.
The stars came out for this Wednesday evening showing. I was predicting a different audience for a mid-week show. But I guess stars and celebs like to hit the town on Weds night and just stay inside on the weekends. As Hawke passed me by at the concessions line, I looked at him and pretended like I didn’t who he was. If this was on a Friday or a Saturday night, I might have said hello. But it’s a Wednesday. He probably didn’t want to be bothered.
The audience I saw this with was a healthy mix of younger people and older, seasoned veterans of Broadway musicals. You could tell who they were by their forced, really loud laughter (“I get that joke!”) and the ones who just stared at the stage, marveling at how the hell something like this was even conceived for public consumption.
But let’s not forget it was nominated for 14 Tonys. That’s the highest of any other show this year. You can bet your bottom dollar people bought their tickets when they found out. I think I bought mine before that, since I had to plan the trip months in advance. So I am in the clear getting on the Book of Mormon bandwagon, okay. I lead the pilgrimage as far as I’m concerned.
So how was this musical, which won 14 nominations and garnered the interest of both Hugh Jackman and Tony Hawke?
A little overrated, to be honest.
I feel like musicals can sometimes be their own worst enemy, by the sheer fact there is music and dancing in them.
I like music, and I like dancing. But musicals are overwhelming combinations of both, and it’s their duty to be as obnoxious as they possibly can. You paid fucking good money to see them, so they better be! I feel like Matt and Trey enjoy the theatricality of musicals, and you can see it in their films. The South Park movie, Cannibal!, and Team America all have characters that break out into song and dance midway through the story.
In the back of my mind I kind of thought the allusions to musicals were tongue in cheek to be ironic. But after seeing this, I think they just genuinely like them. They seem to have an unlimited love for them, actually. Cannibal!, and the South Park movie both feature musical numbers that kind of start wear on you. Team America is not as bad, probably because puppets are singing and the songs are actually really catchy.
Book of Mormon has a couple of catchy tunes. But I would say on the whole, we’re just getting funny lyrics sung to traditional, vanilla show tunes. And hey, no problem right. It’s a musical, after all. But after two and a half hours of it, the show tunes start to wear you down.
Part of the problem is that musicals are divided into two parts. You have a 15 minute intermission to hang out with Tony Hawke at the concessions line, but then the musical has to invite you back for more, and keep the momentum up. I’d say the first half was right on the money with laughs, set design, story, and music. You get into it. It’s fun.
The second half feels more repetitive. By the last act (if we’re to look at musicals in three acts, although that’s probably not accurate), we feel like we’ve been there, done that. The jokes don’t land as hard (with the exception of one of the Uganda characters singing about worms in his scrotum), and the songs aren’t memorable.
I think it deserved a few Tonys. The set design was amazing. The actors, particularly Josh Gad, held their own for the entire performance and gave the show huge life and energy. And it bravely tackled topics that you don’t see tackled on Broadway, let alone in movies, songs, or any other form of art.
One complaint I do have concerns the use of the Mormon religion in the play. If I was a Mormon, and I watched interviews about the show, I’d feel okay seeing it. But in the presence of other non-Mormons watching it, I think the experience would be mostly negative. I’d probably feel people were laughing at my religion.
And that’s fine. I’m not about to condemn musicals for blasting on Mormons. It’s every Americans right to get a bollocking, to use the English expression. However – if you read interviews with Matt or Trey, they clearly suggest Mormons will love it. And that simply can’t be the case if you’re a self respecting Mormon. They do get made fun of, and they are exploited for laughs. I’d like a little more honesty from the creators but after all they are capitalists, and they are trying to sell tickets.
Mormons be warned. People who only mildly enjoy musicals should be warned as well. Oh, and people who love musicals but the traditional kind only, without references to things that could make them uncomfortable.
B- is my grade.