Monday, April 11, 2011

'The Book of Mormon' -- the musical

"Mormons were portrayed as naive, sweet, innocent and stupid. [The show was] a religious experience."

Excerpts of 'Book of Mormon' musical called surprisingly sweet by Peggy Fletcher Stack, The Salt Lake Tribune
"The Book of Mormon," opened for previews at the Eugene O'Neill Theater with a standing ovation.

The production is bawdy, sexually explicit and irreverent. Many believers would see it as a blasphemous assault on scriptures. But the satire and tone were not as hostile as many Mormons feared.

"I was expecting to be offended," said Anne Christensen, a 22-year-old LDS New Yorker, "but was pleasantly surprised by how incredibly sweet it was."
The play is a story about faith and doubt. The set includes the outside frame of an LDS temple, with a spinning Angel Moroni on top. There are brief appearances by LDS Church founder Joseph Smith, his successor, Brigham Young, Book of Mormon figures Mormon and Moroni, and Jesus himself.
The main characters, though, are LDS missionaries in white shirts, ties and those ever-present name tags.
The first scene shows about a dozen missionaries happily ringing doorbells and claiming all answers "are in the book," holding up copies of The Book of Mormon.
For the next two hours, these young men sing about being tempted to sin, about turning off feelings of sexuality, guilt and fear, and about believing sometimes-ludicrous doctrines. They deal with differences and egos and doubt.
One mismatched pair, Elder Price (played by Andrew Rannells) and Elder Cunningham (played by Josh Gad), is sent to Uganda, where AIDS has decimated the population and the locals believe having sex with a virgin is the only cure — but there are no virgins left. A warlord named Joseph Kony (named after the real rebel leader who slaughtered thousands of people in northern Uganda) is threatening to attack and circumcise all the women.
Price, a by-the-book leader who thought Orlando, Fla., would be a perfect place to do his two-year stint, is convinced that he can change the world by baptizing the most people. He is confident and cocky.
Cunningham, a geeky but eager misfit, just wants to be liked.
In one powerful number, "I Believe," Price belts out a string of peculiarly Mormon teachings — that ancient Jews sailed to America, that God lives on a planet called Kolob, that in 1978 "God changed his mind about black people" and that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Mo.
Later, Price begins to doubt those stories, which triggers a "spooky Mormon hell dream," in which he sees serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and Genghis Khan, among other figures. Price is also haunted by two giant cups of coffee, which is prohibited by the church's health code.
"This counterbalance to doctrinal absolutism and scriptural literalism will go against the grain of many mainstream Mormons," said Glenn Cornett, a California Mormon who attended Thursday's preview, "but sits very comfortably with me and many of my friends in and out of the church."
Parker told Vogue that if any Mormons watch the whole play, they will like it.
"It rips on them a lot," Parker told the magazine, "but, in the end, their spirit of wanting to help wins the day."
LDS Church statement
In response to media requests before the musical's preview, the LDS Church released the following: "The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people's lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ."

No comments: