The Book of Mormon @ The Pantages (2014)
By Jeffrey Kieviet
Better Than Lincoln’s Night At the Theatre!
If you haven’t heard, the funniest musical of all time has recently come to LA, so all you theatre buffs in Hollywood Land, get your tickets and get your asses in those seats because you are in for a night of vulgar hilarity and childish whimsy. And those are two cathartic experiences that are hard to achieve, let alone at the same time. The Book of Mormon was created by Trey Parker & Matt Stone, stars of the vastly underrated sports film BASEketball. They also created a TV show called South Park, but seriously, you should really check out BASEketball, it’s freaking hysterical.
Fans of South Park have probably seen a joke or two on the boob-tube about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You may have even seen the episode entirely devoted to the Mormon religion and Joseph Smith’s discovery of the golden plates. Actually, if you’ve seen that episode, you basically have seen the concept & most of the jokes of the play. However, take that 22-minute episode, expand it into a 2 hour+ live/staged extravaganza with lavish musical numbers and a less-evil Cartman, add a sprinkle of racism and you’re ready for a night on the town!
At its bare bones, the show is about 2 Mormon boys (they don’t become “men” until they’ve done their mission, right? This is like a bar mitzvah for the Jews, or your first wet dream for Catholics) who get sent to Uganda for their mission to spread the word of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints). Hilarity ensues as the clearly ignorant missionaries try to give religion to people who need food, clean water, and not-having-AIDS. A lot of the jokes come from the farcical miscommunication of people who so clearly are existing in two separate views of life. As a side note, I have the inside scoop on LDS (Latter-day Saints) sex addicts. I can’t tell you how I know, but I have it on very good authority that these people are paired off and shipped all over the world to get to know themselves and the world. Unfortunately, they are literally not allowed to be separated from their designated partner (a reoccurring joke in the musical), meaning they are eating, traveling, and bunking together 24/7. So at a time in life when you discover who you are, mainly by hours of lonely masturbation, these kids are forbidden from any form of escape and expression. No coffee, no booze, no pounding away at the ol’ scrotal punching bag. Even the Amish have Rumschpringe. Speaking of which, I also have some inside info that if you find an Amish chick celebrating her ritualistic departure from adolescence, there’s a good shot she’ll give up a tonk in the tradesman’s entrance.
This show isn’t just for fans of South Park. This show won all the Tony awards. Like, all of them. It even won a Grammy. Which means it has to be as good as Stephen Colbert, which should be the standard measurement for greatness. He’s won all the awards too. Anywho, the show is full of references to other musicals for theatre fans, as well as enough good-natured vulgarity to win the approval of the Mormon Church (of Jesus Christ [of Latter-day Saints]). If you look back on their career, Matt and Trey have been heading this direction for years. This is basically the culmination of everything they’ve ever done ever. Back in the day, they made this flick called Cannibal! The Musical. It’s inspired by a local hero(?) from their hometown in Colorado. The film is terrible, but it’s practically a student film, so it mainly serves to inspire folk like the writers here at Primitive Screwheads. If the South Park guys can start with celluloid feces and turn a profit, maybe there’s hope for us. Plus, I recently saw the movie as a staged adaptation and they are able to bring the camp and humor in spades. Then they made another little film called Orgasmo. I highly recommend peeping this if you get a chance, it’s about a Mormon dude who turns to porn to pay for his wedding. Also he’s a super hero. Then they go on to South Park, and South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut which is also a musical, then bringing everything from their childhood, their hometown, their religious uprbringing, they throw it on a blender and pour it out on broadway only to the mass appeal of everyone.
Remember when I said they won the approval of the Mormon Church (of Jesus Christ [of Latter-day Saints])? I
n the theatre program, there are advertisements for the real Book of Mormon, for the real Church! I don’t think any other religion (maybe other than Pasta-farians) would be able to take a play that not only mocks their entire belief structure, but is filled with enough vulgarity to make a sailor blush, and encourage people to see it. If you’re familiar with that South Park episode All About Mormons, you’ll remember that at the end of the episode, the Mormon kid is still a good guy. Regardless of what they believe, they build a strong sense of family and community. So, yeah, these people have a very unrealistic perception of the world, their spiritual beliefs border on insanity (believing in ghosts, witches, and edible zombies that grant you paradise can make any religion seem slap-stick), and instead of trying to bring people food & water they bring them a book, but at the end of the day, the people are happy (the Mormons, not the starving & impoverished natives). At least they are able to “turn off” their bad thoughts until they become porn addicts or climb a clock tower and hurl pinecones down on unsuspecting tourists.
Like all the humor from South Park (or modern humor in general), there is no line to cross. They touch on the practice of people in Africa believing that one way to cure AIDS is by having sex with a virgin. Since there are fewer and fewer virgins, some people have taken to having sex with babies. So now there are violated babies and children who now also have AIDS. This is a real thing. Places torn apart by war and famine are subject to unimaginable horrors. Unimaginable and yet, somehow real. Now, I’m the first person to say that you have to laugh, otherwise there’s nothing to do but cry, but these topics are heart wrenching. I threw a dollar in the red bucket as I left the theatre, and I’m sure the play has raised awareness to the horrors of forced female circumcision and other tragedies that have been happening, and will continue to happen, until a group of Mormons can actually stop a murderous warlord from killing people and convince General Butt Fucking Naked that he’s better off going door to door trying to sell the 3rd book in the Jesus Christ Triology (the Book of Mormon is basically Return of the Jedi).
The Book of Mormon
Book, Music and Lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone
Directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker