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Review: Book of Mormon

03.01.2011

PLOT: Two young Mormon missionaries get their steadfast faith and cheery dispositions tested after they're assigned to the impoverished, war-torn country of Uganda.

REVIEW: Is BOOK OF MORMON the best Broadway show ever made? Though I've seen my fair share of musicals, I probably don't have the critical clout to make that claim. However, I am comfortable in declaring it my new favorite—a revelation so funny it's akin to a religious experience.

As a huge fan of "South Park" and everything else Trey Parker and Matt Stone have touched creatively, BOOK OF MORMON does not disappoint. Their healthy sense of scathing satire, crass wit, and good-natured humor is not lost in transition to the stage. If anything, the format has freed them to finally scratch the musical itch they've clearly had their entire career and allowed the duo to play in a fancy new sandbox with a live element that makes their work even more exciting and sometimes shocking. It's one thing to watch cartoon characters on TV talk about something like the "Magical AIDS F*ck Frog," but it's entirely different when a chorus of people are singing about it five feet in front of you.

The plot isn't complicated, which thankfully allows for a quick set up that gets the characters and the audience straight to the funny. Elder Price, an exemplary Mormon all-star, is partnered up with Elder Cunningham, a schlubby, awkward slacker, and the two set out for Africa assuming it's going to be exactly like THE LION KING. It's not. (The first reveal of the Ugandan set is jarringly hilarious and features a prop that had me in stitches.) The visiting pair, perfectly naïve in the grand Mormon tradition, is quickly confronted with poverty, AIDS, warlords, scrotal plagues and more, and the dire conditions and embittered Africans lead to a crisis of faith for Price and a new calling for the seriously under-qualified Cunningham that's ripe for comedy.

To reveal anymore about the plot or potentially spoil any of the great moments would be a shame, as the element of surprise is one of the show's strengths, along with its character work. A lot of the initial humor comes from Price and Cunningham as an odd couple, but both are quickly thrust in to a fish-out-of-water story that leads to some fun, shifting dynamics. Andrew Rannells, playing Elder Price, is clearly the more classically trained Broadway star and he's great as the straight-laced, somewhat cocky lead. However, Josh Gad's Elder Cunningham also deserves a lot of praise. Gad never really left an impression on me from his work on "The Daily Show" or LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS, but here he hits all the right comedic beats, straddling the right line between likable loser and annoying idiot. (Minor Spoiler: Once Cunningham embraces his "gifts," it may or may not lead to musical numbers that include Darth Vader, Frodo and other nerd favorites.)

Like most of Parker/Stone's work starting with CANNIBAL! THE MUSICAL, the songs in BOOK OF MORMON are just as good as the jokes. Together with Robert Lopez, the creator of the also-fantastic AVENUE Q, the duo has penned a show full of hilarious and memorable tunes, including "Hello," an opening number that realistically portrays the trials of door-to-door evangelism, "Salt Lake City," a soul-stirring ballad about the Utahian paradise (played perfectly straight), and "Man Up," an empowering rock song reminiscent of "Now You're a Man" from the ORGAZMO opening credits. However, two other numbers clearly stand out high above the rest. One is a "Hakuna Matata"-like song with an African title whose English translation I cannot repeat on this website. With colorful language and blasphemous content, this is definitely the most potentially offensive—and hilarious—portion of the show, but still somewhat sensible when you consider what some Ugandans have to deal with on a daily basis. My other personal favorite is the aptly-titled "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream," which wins solely from a production and insanity standpoint and features some surprises and celebrity cameos I will not ruin.

It should also be no surprise that BOOK OF MORMON manages to balance its crass humor with some genuine heart—making light of, but never cruelly mocking its subject matter. Flashbacks to Joseph Smith's story are weaved in to the narrative and impressively enough, the musical doesn't feel like a retread of the similarly-themed ORGAZMO or the "All About Mormons" episode of "South Park." Like a lot of Parker/Stone productions there's a surprisingly inherent sweetness to the show's final message, and, assuming they make it to the end, I could even see some Mormons approving of it. (Would it help that the stage is built like the Mormon Temple, complete with rotating golden Jesus statue on top?) Aside obviously from religion and exploring one's faith, the BOOK also touches on topics from issues facing Africa to homosexuality. I wouldn't say that things ever get really serious, but some moments are definitely more poignant than others. And even if you don't agree with their conclusion, I think you'll leave the theater on a life-affirming note (and not remembering you just watched something with jokes about baby rape).

If you're a fan of "South Park," ORGAZMO or any of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's work, seeing BOOK OF MORMON is a no-brainer and worth the trip to NYC. If you've enjoyed irreverent productions like AVENUE Q, or just like good music in general, this will also be right down your alley. And even if Broadway and musicals aren't your cup of tea, I'd consider this an exception given the talent and quality. SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK may be getting your curious attention, but BOOK OF MORMON deserves your money.

BOOK OF MORMON is currently in previews at the Eugene O'Neil Theatre in New York City.

Extra Tidbit: I was so sick of politics by the time the 2008 elections came around that I wrote in Trey Parker as my Presidential candidate.
Source: JoBlo.com

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6:20PM on 03/02/2011

Hell yes!

These 2 shit gold in my oppinion.
These 2 shit gold in my oppinion.
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6:01AM on 03/02/2011

I am Sancho!

There are many Jeffs in the world, many Toms as well.
There are many Jeffs in the world, many Toms as well.
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3:51PM on 03/01/2011

As a Mormon

I'm sorta, like, whatever. When you know the facts, you can see where liberties are taken with your beliefs (such as with the South Park episode and Orgazmo... both fun, yet often wrong factually), and personally, I'm cool with this. To be honest, most Mormons probably don't care.

Yet, I do roll my eyes when I see in the review "rotating golden Jesus statue" as I don't know if this is just a misunderstanding of what the golden statue is, or how it is actually depicted in the show. Cuz the
I'm sorta, like, whatever. When you know the facts, you can see where liberties are taken with your beliefs (such as with the South Park episode and Orgazmo... both fun, yet often wrong factually), and personally, I'm cool with this. To be honest, most Mormons probably don't care.

Yet, I do roll my eyes when I see in the review "rotating golden Jesus statue" as I don't know if this is just a misunderstanding of what the golden statue is, or how it is actually depicted in the show. Cuz the fact is, that's not a statue of Jesus on Mormon temples. But I don't know if that's what the show is trying to convey as I haven't seen it. Yet, it illustrates my point about the liberties taken with facts.

And I guess that's my point. I read the EW article, and it has some really funny sounding gags. But at the same time, because so many liberties are being taken in the form of satire, I wonder how many people will misunderstand and outright get the "facts" wrong.

I will say this, and its some serious food for thought (and note, I'm not accusing this show of doing this at all): Why is it that it's okay to make fun off and trash Mormons, but the instant we do it to Jews for example, you are immediately called a bigot or an anti-Semite? For some reason it's always okay to openly ridicule Mormons (and I really honestly do get the joke), but I question if its not time to grow up a little too.

Bonus fun: Here's a website that lists all the famous Mormon people if you want to check it out. Aaron Eckhart, Wilford Brimley, Kathryn Heigle, Paul Walker, Billy Barty, Brandon Flowers, and more are some standouts... www.famousmormons.net
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4:20PM on 03/01/2011
It's all about time. For example, we don't take Scientology seriously because it's only 50 years old and we know L Ron Hubbard was a liar and a con-artist. Mormonism is only 150 years old, so we take it a bit more seriously than Scientology, but we also know that Joseph Smith was a liar and a con artist and that most of the assertions of that book are patently false. Islam is 1200 years old so it gets a bit more cred. Christianity has 2000 years so it's just fine. Jews have several thousands,
It's all about time. For example, we don't take Scientology seriously because it's only 50 years old and we know L Ron Hubbard was a liar and a con-artist. Mormonism is only 150 years old, so we take it a bit more seriously than Scientology, but we also know that Joseph Smith was a liar and a con artist and that most of the assertions of that book are patently false. Islam is 1200 years old so it gets a bit more cred. Christianity has 2000 years so it's just fine. Jews have several thousands, so it's instant respect. Really, we know they're all equally ridiculous (aliens being atom bombed by an intergalactic warlord is no dumber than virgin births and resurrections).
4:41PM on 03/01/2011
I challenge you trismegistus, as you just instantly insulted my believes, but did it in a clever way as to make it look as if you are in fact supporting my viewpoints.

To instantly agree with what I had to say, but then to say Joseph Smith was a con man and a liar is absolutely worthy of a challenge. I can assure you I am very well aware of all the charges against Smith, yet you, I can promise, are not even aware of what is in the Book of Mormon. Nor do you know the history behind it or what
I challenge you trismegistus, as you just instantly insulted my believes, but did it in a clever way as to make it look as if you are in fact supporting my viewpoints.

To instantly agree with what I had to say, but then to say Joseph Smith was a con man and a liar is absolutely worthy of a challenge. I can assure you I am very well aware of all the charges against Smith, yet you, I can promise, are not even aware of what is in the Book of Mormon. Nor do you know the history behind it or what is contained therein, nor do you know the true history of Smith (or for that matter, the rumored histories).

You unwittingly echoed my point. You take the media, and you take the generalizations of what you have heard, and you are using them to state what is "reality," which is far from the case.

Outside of being a Mormon myself, and yes, I do fully hold Joseph Smith to be a modern prophet and I have no shame in saying so, I am also a student of religion. I have studied it for well over 20 years, and not just from a Mormon viewpoint. So if you are so bold as to openly mock my beliefs, I boldly challenge you to a pissing contest. And I will win said pissing contest.

However, yes, you are right, time gains respect. But really, "we" don't know they are all ridiculous. They are only ridiculous to those who refuse to see past their own ignorant asses.

The reality is we live on a world and in a universe that probably none of us understand, and to state that "we" know they're all ridiculous is ignorance. So don't act enlightened because of your own bloated ignorance.
5:23PM on 03/01/2011
He is wisest who knows what he does not. I am fully aware of how vastly ignorant I am, as any rational person should be. We as a species obviously do not understand theany secrets of our cosmos, nor do we understand the secrets of our planet. Is the solution to just make up the answers? By religious logic, yes. There may well have been a creator, but if there was, it clearly has nothing to do with anything written in any book, and is far more complicated than the insipid drip with petty human
He is wisest who knows what he does not. I am fully aware of how vastly ignorant I am, as any rational person should be. We as a species obviously do not understand theany secrets of our cosmos, nor do we understand the secrets of our planet. Is the solution to just make up the answers? By religious logic, yes. There may well have been a creator, but if there was, it clearly has nothing to do with anything written in any book, and is far more complicated than the insipid drip with petty human emotions so commonly praid to. Believe what you want, no skin off my back. But don't go pumping money into bigotted political campaigns and then play the persecution card. And please don't assume that because im an atheist I'm ignorant of scripture - I'm not.
9:39PM on 03/01/2011
Trismegistus is completely right.
Trismegistus is completely right.
10:31PM on 03/01/2011
Sorry but Commander 7 is completely right.

Mormon's have no record of "persecuting" other groups. They stand up for what they believe and defend their rights to believe what they want and they do it in a legal and constitutional manner. You say the founder of their church was a "con artist and a liar" yet you ignore the fact that the church he founded strongly promotes family, marriage, morality and honesty in all things as well as trying your best to be kind, thoughtful, charitable and
Sorry but Commander 7 is completely right.

Mormon's have no record of "persecuting" other groups. They stand up for what they believe and defend their rights to believe what they want and they do it in a legal and constitutional manner. You say the founder of their church was a "con artist and a liar" yet you ignore the fact that the church he founded strongly promotes family, marriage, morality and honesty in all things as well as trying your best to be kind, thoughtful, charitable and loving to other people.

Mormons aren't perfect and don't claim to be and they welcome people of all faiths to worship as they may without persecution. They only ask the same in return.

The Book of Mormon is an amazingly powerful book and everyone who dismisses it in ignorance is missing out. Booyah!
4:12AM on 03/02/2011
Oh please. Look up the LDS racial policies prior to the 70s. And what was 2008's proposition 8 if not a vile attempt to impose Mormon 'morality' on everyone else? And what about all the Mormon homosexual rehabilitation centres? Disgusting. Iron age ethics channeled through 19th century closed-mindedness. As for the literary worth of that book: if you asked me to cheaply emulate/parody the biblical vernacular, it would probably come out sounding something like the Book of Mormon.
Oh please. Look up the LDS racial policies prior to the 70s. And what was 2008's proposition 8 if not a vile attempt to impose Mormon 'morality' on everyone else? And what about all the Mormon homosexual rehabilitation centres? Disgusting. Iron age ethics channeled through 19th century closed-mindedness. As for the literary worth of that book: if you asked me to cheaply emulate/parody the biblical vernacular, it would probably come out sounding something like the Book of Mormon.
3:16PM on 03/02/2011
Oh man I would LOVE to read your attempt at emulating the "biblical vernacular". Write (without any source material) 71 chapters on Doctrine, 55 chapters on visions and prophecies,54 chapters on war,21 historical chapters and 21 chapters on the ministry of Jesus while introducing the literary usage of metaphors, narration, description, epic, lyric and logic. Do it when you are around twenty with no formal education and see how long your version would endure. If you ever do it email it to me!
Oh man I would LOVE to read your attempt at emulating the "biblical vernacular". Write (without any source material) 71 chapters on Doctrine, 55 chapters on visions and prophecies,54 chapters on war,21 historical chapters and 21 chapters on the ministry of Jesus while introducing the literary usage of metaphors, narration, description, epic, lyric and logic. Do it when you are around twenty with no formal education and see how long your version would endure. If you ever do it email it to me! I'm sure it would be entertaining. In the meantime the Book of Mormon continues to hold strong under the most intense criticism by the learned and the ignorant with over 140 million copies published in 103 languages around the world.
Prop 8 an attempt to impose Mormon morality on everyone else!? Ha! More like the other way around buddy since gay marriage wasn't accepted as law before prop 8 anyway. Mormon's peacefully had people sign petitions, contribute to a campaign and took out advertising in support of traditional marriage, all legal and constitutional actions while the other side picketed outside their places of worship, bullied them at their places of employment to get them fired and exposed private information about donations online in an attempt to embarrass and humiliate them. Besides one judge overturned the vote of the people (which is just incredibly fair...wow) so what does anyone have to feel upset about?
And as for "racial policies" why don't you talk to the thousands of mormons around the world from many different races, cultures and backgrounds prior to the 70's before you make claims in ignorance.
3:46PM on 03/02/2011
So if I was to peacefully protest in support of apartheid, separate drinking fountains for black people, that would be okay? That wouldn't be a heinous act of bigotry and ignorance? If I nicely yet ruthlessly got people to sign petitions to end women's suffrage, thereby reinforcing centuries of inequality and hatred, would it seem wrong for my opponents to picket outside my building? No, it would be shocking. This is no different, and what the LDS did in 2008 was vile and will be looked upon
So if I was to peacefully protest in support of apartheid, separate drinking fountains for black people, that would be okay? That wouldn't be a heinous act of bigotry and ignorance? If I nicely yet ruthlessly got people to sign petitions to end women's suffrage, thereby reinforcing centuries of inequality and hatred, would it seem wrong for my opponents to picket outside my building? No, it would be shocking. This is no different, and what the LDS did in 2008 was vile and will be looked upon with great shame by the generations to come. It is a shining example of how fundamentally immoral religion as an institution is.

I could talk to all the multiethnic Mormons I wanted, it wouldn't change that the Church was still a fundamentally racist organisation. It wasn't until the zeitgeist changed enough for the elders to fabricate a "revelation" requiring them to fix their outlook. I look forward to the revelation that ends homophobia, it's inevitable.

Yes, it is impressive that Joseph Smith was able to author such a long book at such a young age. That is still no testament to its literary worth. And that's without even going into the blatant geographical and historical fabrications that have been PROVEN to be false. But don't get me wrong, I think the Bible itself is a mess. If it is the word of God, why is it so poorly written?
4:11PM on 03/02/2011
Wow. This is lookin heated. And it also looks kinda pointless and silly. Let it go guys, none of you are going to get anywhere with this. Now go get a milkshake and enjoy your day.
Wow. This is lookin heated. And it also looks kinda pointless and silly. Let it go guys, none of you are going to get anywhere with this. Now go get a milkshake and enjoy your day.
4:15PM on 03/02/2011
@joslittle "Now go get a milkshake and enjoy your day" - that's probably the best thing I've read all day! Consider the advice taken!
@joslittle "Now go get a milkshake and enjoy your day" - that's probably the best thing I've read all day! Consider the advice taken!
4:21PM on 03/02/2011
Pointless and silly indeed. As Dr House once said: "If you could reason with religious people, there'd be no religion people."
Pointless and silly indeed. As Dr House once said: "If you could reason with religious people, there'd be no religion people."
1:31PM on 03/01/2011

I wanna see this

My Theater Club is gonna see a show in a few weeks, and though it has been decided that "Prascilla" is the first choice (ugh) i managed to convince them that this is a close second, i have my fingers cross to go see this as soon as i can.
My Theater Club is gonna see a show in a few weeks, and though it has been decided that "Prascilla" is the first choice (ugh) i managed to convince them that this is a close second, i have my fingers cross to go see this as soon as i can.
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12:44PM on 03/01/2011

Lame

I want a sequel to the Somali pirates episode of southpark. Get on it Trey.
I want a sequel to the Somali pirates episode of southpark. Get on it Trey.
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11:46AM on 03/01/2011
@SpikeDurden

This is Joblo.com, the Charlie Sheen of movie websites. WINNING.
@SpikeDurden

This is Joblo.com, the Charlie Sheen of movie websites. WINNING.
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10:22AM on 03/01/2011

Uganda

Im only writing this b/c i cannot Stand Ugandans! Worst people on the planet, biggest bunch of posers you will ever meet or know! I've worked with them last 3 yrs, awful people yo!
Im only writing this b/c i cannot Stand Ugandans! Worst people on the planet, biggest bunch of posers you will ever meet or know! I've worked with them last 3 yrs, awful people yo!
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9:46AM on 03/01/2011
I live in New York and am a huge theatre fan, seeing just about everything that opens, some multiple times. I will definitely say that this show is about as good as Jason says.

I will say, however, that it is traditional practice for theatre reviewers to wait until a show has actually opened before writing a review. I understand that this is a film website and Broadway is of course a new thing for you guys, but although not a law it is almost a breech of ethics to write about a show in a
I live in New York and am a huge theatre fan, seeing just about everything that opens, some multiple times. I will definitely say that this show is about as good as Jason says.

I will say, however, that it is traditional practice for theatre reviewers to wait until a show has actually opened before writing a review. I understand that this is a film website and Broadway is of course a new thing for you guys, but although not a law it is almost a breech of ethics to write about a show in a professional setting before it opens. A lot of critics have been doing this with Spider-Man, and although I understand why they are doing it due to extenuating circumstances, it still isn't right. Before a show officially has its opening night the show is not "frozen" and they are still working on the show, making it tighter and making changes.

Congratulations on the great review and I'm so glad you enjoyed it and glad to see JoBlo is branching out a little bit, but next time you write up Broadway try to be more respectful of the way the critical Broadway community usually works.
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