Thursday, February 28, 2013

"The Book of Mormon" review

Kmanpat and I have a theory that if you write a satirical religious musical, it should contain a song called "I Believe" which will be a big power ballad sung by the main character in Act II. If we were going to write a show like that, it would totally have that song in it. Really we thought that song would be in every musical that had anything to do with religion but when I actually, you know, looked into it? Not the case. (click for more)

What we were basing the theory off of was both The Book of Mormon and Altar Boyz. Altar Boyz is an off-Broadway show about a Christian boy band on tour. It manages to make fun of both Christian music and boy bands in such a way that you can tell someone used to really like one or both of those things. Obviously if there was such a thing as a Christian boy band (I'm sure there are some somewhere) their name would be The Altar Boyz, with the Z. I mention it because I found myself comparing The Book of Mormon to Altar Boyz a lot, and...this will sound crazy but I liked Altar Boyz better. Not that The Book of Mormon was bad or anything, just that I don't think it was the perfect, hilarious, epic show that everyone seems to think it is.

The Book of Mormon is about two Mormon missionaries that get sent to Uganda, which is not anything like two white boys from Utah have ever experienced. Clearly. Elder Price is probably the model of what every Mormon official would like to put on all the promotional brochures, while Elder Cunningham is a socially awkward nerd. Incidentally, in my playbill there were three full page ads from the LDS that encouraged me to "read the book" now that I've seen the show because "the book is always better". Whatever official was in charge of that should get a raise because that is freaking brilliant. Anyway, Price is sure he's going to be awesome, and that Cunningham will totally be his sidekick but probably not really do anything. It's kind of sad how Cunningham agrees with this. The people in the village they end up in are dealing with AIDS, famine, and a warlord.

So the warlord's name is General Butt-Fucking-Naked. This is a perfect example of why I didn't like this show as much as everyone else seems to. There is a real warlord general named General Butt Naked, because he fights naked? Or something. Anyway, I think what the producers were like, "Let's put in profanity! Profanity is always funny!" because they are twelve year old boys. If you watch "South Park" you already knew that. I knew it too. "Hasa Diga Eebowai" sounds like a Hakuna-Matata peppy song about inspirational African sayings, but the translation is cursing God for your troubles. This by itself I actually think is hilarious, because even after you are told the real translation, the song is still all peppy and generically "African" in the way Broadway musicals are. Then the show adds choreography which includes everyone flipping the bird at the sky as much as possible. OK, still good. The last verse/chorus/whatever is just a bunch of profanity. Like they just wanted to cram as many offensive words in there that make no sense but are as offensive as possible. Do they think that is hilarious, because they're twelve? Are they just being outrageous and daring you to laugh? Is it a grand joke, seeing if they can force critics to pretend they're not offended so they don't look uncool for being offended? I'm not sure. There's no reason for it, and even in the South Park movie where they crammed in a bunch of profanity, they had a reason. It was a dumb reason, but it was a reason.

Aside from that, there are plenty of funny parts in this show. They skewer the Mormons pretty well, and I like satire more than random cursing any day. Elder Cunningham has never actually read the Book of Mormon so when asked to talk about it he makes up random stuff about frogs and Mordor and Star Wars. Also you have to appreciate a song about turning off your feelings about being sad or scared or gay ("like a light switch/There it's gone!/My hetero side just won!"), which song then ends in tap dancing and pink sequined vests. The songs overall are great. Everything is extremely catchy and has long sections where nothing crazy happens and it sounds like any other song from any other musical. Then comes a lyric like "And I believe/That ancient Jews built boats and sailed to America". Random. They really sell all the silliness in there. The songs are fantastic, random offensive lyrics notwithstanding.

And buried in there, way way down, is a good story about how religion should be about helping people. It's pretty far down there but there are times where you can see it struggling to make it out. Then there's some profanity again. I think overall it's worth it if you can go see it, but I won't go so far as to say it's the funniest musical ever. I think sometimes they're trying really hard to be edgy and offensive but it has nothing to do with the plot or anything, they're just making sure it's in there.

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