The “South Park” Boys Grow Up: Seeing ‘Book of Mormon’ on Broadway

Courtesy of collider.com

My boyfriend and I took a trip to New York City for the night yesterday, and we were lucky enough to get tickets to “The Book of Mormon” on Broadway given to us as a present. First of all, I must say that if you’re going to the city, make sure you give yourself more than one night. I wanted to get to the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but the wait was too long (as well as the trip in and out from our Holiday Inn in Brooklyn). Oh well, maybe another trip. Second, whenever you go to a Broadway play, do NOT drive on the streets and allow yourself at least two hours before showtime. I got there right on time, and my boyfriend missed the first quarter. Wah wah.

Despite the stress before the show, “The Book of Mormon” definitely lived up to its hype. I can see why the show has given numerous sold-out performances and ticket prices are ridiculously high. It really is an incredibly mature work satirizing organized religion, specifically Mormonism here; it also makes fun of traditional musicals at the same time as it embraces the showmanship and musicality of them.

The plot is fairly simple. Two Mormon missionaries are sent to Uganda to bring the Mormon religion to the African people in a remote village. When they get there, they realize that converting the African people is going to be much more difficult than they anticipated.

If the play’s topic seems like it could be serious, that’s because Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the writers of “South Park,” love taking ideas that seem untouchable and finding the humor and political incorrectness in them. And there’s a lot of politically incorrect material here. Neither of the Mormon elders are paragons of good — Elder Price is arrogant, Elder Cunningham is a liar — and the Africans are portrayed as backwards people with no concept the modern world.

The humor isn’t actually what makes the show great. It’s funny, but for anyone who has seen “South Park,” it’s all been done before. What pushes the show over the top is their collaboration with Robert Lopez, one of the writers of comedic Broadway hit “Avenue Q.” There’s just enough smut for laughs, but they balance that with character development and important lessons about the meaning of religion (even if that is that every religion is made up by someone who disagrees with their current one).

The music is also, surprisingly, a huge hit. The guys sample from a lot of different types of musicals from rock musicals like “Rent” to more traditional ones like “The Sound of Music.” Every song works though, and it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a musical where I could say that. I think it’s great that people go in thinking they’ll see something akin to “South Park” because they’ll be pleasantly surprised that it’s a step up both in terms of quality and humor.

Don’t worry though; they maintain their level of “inappropriate” to the max. And it feels so good to laugh without being censured.

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