Although its “what the?” shock factor has been greatly diminished since the original Book of Mormon:The Musical musical opened on in 2011, it is nonetheless worth a raised eye-brow when an entertainment that so thoroughly skewers LDS mythology opens one block away from the world headquarters of Mormonism.
The play came through the Capitol theater two years ago and SLmag explored the ramifications of its SLC debut exhaustively in a very clever article. So it’s return is not as big a deal. It is worth noting, however, that this production will open at The Eccles Theatre, which for the record, is one block closer to Temple Square than the Capitol Theater.
Next time? The Tabernacle? Haha. Just kidding!
The LDS Official response to the musical’s success has been quite clever and remarkably gracious considering the play accuses church founder Joseph Smith of being (yes, this is in the play) a frog f***er. In larger markets, the church has bought billboards with its cheery “I’m a Mormon” campaign and has often included cheeky adverts in the theater playbills that say, “You’ve seen the musical, now read the book” and offers a free copy of the actual Book of Mormon. If anyone has ever actually done this—I’d like to meet you.
The play is the tale of two missionaries (one driven and the other hilariously hapless) trying to save souls in Africa through sheer gumption and gosh darn believing hard enough. And while, it’s a foul-mouthed sendup of the culture that surrounds missionary work and some of the weirder aspects of LDS doctrine and mythology, it’s also great musical theater. Really great. The songs are big and bold and the focus is on the performance, not flying set pieces and over-the-top staging. The backdrops are painted like an old-school vaudeville performance—no Lion King puppets here. Although, um, there is a puppet of a sort after an African warlord demonstrates what he thinks about the Book of Mormon by sticking it… oops! No spoilers.
And, behind all the crude humor lies a really sweet story about two young men just trying to figure out life. It treats the actual missionaries kindly and they emerge looking pretty good, albeit insanely naive. If you haven’t seen it, make sure you do, anyone who has spent any degree of time in Utah, will find a rash of inside jokes that were lost on otherwise sophisticated New Yorkers. It’s funny, well-sung and a darn good night out at the theater.
I can’t wait to see it again.
Book of Mormon: The Musical runs Aug. 1–20 at the Eccles Theater, tickets and information here.