A Belated Review of The Book of Mormon

It's been two years since The Book of Mormon opened on Broadway, and after earning high acclaim including nine Tony Awards, it is still packing the house at the Eugene O'Neill Theater. There's a long wait-time if you want premium seats without having to mortgage your house, and even then the hot tickets can be pricey.  Although it might not be the "show of the century" as some over-enthusiastic critics might claim, it's still a fine piece of entertainment with some thoughtful messages beneath the shock-value jokes.

How can any production live up to the hype that The Book of Mormon has received? The fact that it does continue to delight audiences despite all the hyperbole surrounding it is a testament to its creators Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Robert Lopez. As with any great satire, its message is more powerful as told through humor and outrageous parody than if it had been delivered in a more straightforward, literal manner. Numbers such as the brazenly blasphemous "Hasa Diga Eebowai" and the intentionally over-the-top, scatologically-charged "Joseph Smith American Moses" highlight the bravery of the writers -- they're not just pushing buttons in an attempt at cheap laughs, there's a method to their crapness.

Wipe away the middle-fingers-to-heaven, the fornicating with amphibians, the song-lyric and character-name F-bombs, the dysentery-inspired choreography (however clever), and we're still left with a profound message about faith and the power of belief to change people's lives for the better.  That might sound contradictory to a show whose premise seems to be the mocking of organized religions and the ridiculing of missionaries who apparently embrace superstition over reason. (And the show does all this very well.) Yet, in the end we're left with a lampoon of not just the blind faithful who lose sight of the core message and purpose of their belief system, but also those who willingly reject the power of community and doing what's right. The fact that The Book of Mormon can accomplish that is nothing short of miraculous.

The story is packed with intelligent moments, from the in-jokes about Disneyesque Orlando to the upheaval of the stereotype of the sidekick by turning him into the hero. I won't give away any spoilers.  I went into the show without knowing much about the plot, and you all should do the same.  Even if you wait another few years before having the chance to see the musical for yourselves, allow its wit to reveal itself to you. It may not be the greatest show on Earth (I can think of plenty other better shows that will last longer in my memory, even some South Park episodes!), but it's certainly a very good theatrical experience that will make you smile and think.

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