The Book of Mormon is a traveling Broadway musical that visited Portland’s Keller Auditorium this January. The play was written by the creators of the popular TV series South Park, and it pokes fun at various Mormon beliefs and practices. The two main characters face troubles as Mormon missionaries sent to Uganda with the task of sharing their beliefs with an uninterested and preoccupied village. Awarded nine Tony awards, Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone have seen tremendous success through the production since its premiere on Broadway in 2011.
The Book of Mormon entertains its audiences with cheeky rudeness and crude humor. The crass quality of the play is an unusual characteristic to the musical theater world, and no doubt contributes to its success. The musical has humor around every corner, through everything from song to lighting cue. Theater enthusiast and Franklin student Lucy Walker (11) believes that The Book of Mormon is “one of the most accessible musicals.” It proves its accessibility by wooing those who don’t usually enjoy musical theater. Walker says, “The Book of Mormon is so funny, it doesn’t matter who you are.” However, because of the play’s success, the Mormon image was impacted and various criticisms of the satire arose. In addition to this, the production caused a wide range of other reactions, including an opportunity to advertise the Mormon practice outside the Keller Auditorium! Each night after the performance, people of the Mormon faith would wait to tell the emerging audience about their beliefs.
The technical pieces of the show carry the production through contrasting scenes and side narratives while also enhancing the humor of the play. The costumes and set maintain the illusion for the audience, and make it more than just actors on a stage. The costumes range from subtle to gaudy, and the set is convincing, while the scene changes are seamless. The music is stunning, but too inappropriate to sing while walking down the street, with songs such as “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” and “Hasa Diga Eebowai” which is claimed to translate to “fuck you, God.” The dancing brings added touches of humor as well as the usual pizzazz a Broadway musical has in its dance numbers. Featuring tap and other “unique” movements, the production was a beautiful combination of hard work in all its technical departments.
While it may be labeled as offensive, The Book of Mormon is an excellent show full of unexpected laughs and unconventional humor. Walker adds that musical theater offers a greater “suspension of disbelief” than movies or television, meaning that people are more willing to let things go and believe in an unusual story. It is a musical for everyone, with the exception of maybe small children. The Book of Mormon is a surprising delight of talented actors, singers, and dancers performing a truly unique comedy about Mormons.