Sunday, February 10, 2013

Book of Mormon in Seattle: A Review (ish)

Apparently I had been living under a rock because until sometime last year, I had no idea that the creators of South Park had also written a musical. About Mormon missionaries. In Africa.

Take in those three facts for a minute, and you can pretty much imagine what it's like.  It reminded me a lot of their South Park movie from 1999.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I had no idea that Book of Mormon was coming to Seattle or that it was sold out. I'm pretty much stuck in a haze of parenting, with the occasional coffee or lunch date with friends. Keeping up on pop culture is pretty far down the list.

So when my friend Ric offered me a ticket about a week before, I was EXCITED. I love musicals. I love South Park. I love the idea of having dinner and going out with a bunch of grownups to see something delightfully kid-inappropriate.

And then I found out it was a "thing". Had been sold out for weeks. Tickets being scalped for obscene prices. I am *so* lucky - this really was one of those "unexpected blessings from the universe" woo-woo things. Woot!

The show was at the lovely Paramount theater. The last show I saw there was Queensryche in 2007. (Sidebar: we need to get out more!) We had great seats.

And it was a Spectacle with a capital-S.  Big musical numbers, flashing lights, fancy costumes and laughs. Lots and lots of laughs. Which is odd. I haven't seen many *funny* musicals. (Are there many?) But this one was, as expected, *so* offensive, and yet, *so* hilarious.  The humor is in line with South Park, so it's not the musical to take your grandma or your mom to (unless they'd watch South Park with you).

There were a few things I wasn't expecting to get out of this. (Take home lessons, if you will.) I loved the clever way the writers (composers? authors?) poked fun at the casual racism that comes from living in a homogeneous culture - my favorite was the way one of the characters could NEVER get the name of the African lead female character correct.

The other take home lesson?  Discomfort. I'm not religious, but it was a bit uncomfortable to sit through 2 (award-winning, society-sanctioned) hours of making fun of one particular religion.  I know South Park has always been about edgy humor, but one of the best things about it is that they make fun of *everyone* - it's equal opportunity offensiveness.  

This reaction actually surprised me a bit - I'm definitely not a fan of evangelical religions, having been an easy target of proselytizing in the past. I do believe people should be left alone to practice whatever religion they want, regardless of how "weird" it seems to outsiders. I guess this comes from growing up in a Hindu family in Pittsburgh, PA and having gotten my share of rude comments   about it.

I may be attributing more sophistication to Parker and Stone, but I do think this is part of their humor and what makes it insidiously clever while on the surface looking like fart and poop jokes. I think they *want* us to be uncomfortable, to face all the ugly sentiments lurking beneath our usually polite society.

After all, they did write an entire South Park episode mocking Islam (which I believe their network wouldn't air), and Christianity has also been the target of their jokes as well.

Also clever?  The ads in the program for the website, urging people to check out the "real Book of Mormon". I was pretty surprised to see them!

If you've seen it, I'd love to hear what you think.


  1. if someone would give me a ticket, i would drop everything to see it!!! how lucky are you:) AND how fun for you to ESCAPE!

  2. Sounds like a great night of thought provoking entertainment!

  3. I don't 'get' South Park humour, so I guess this wouldn't be the musical for me! But I'm glad you had a fun night out! x

  4. i LOVE musicals too, and have been very intrigued by this one! wish i could go back to NY to see a couple more musicals

  5. I agree- they use dumb humor to point out things in life that make us a little uncomfortable. And nothing is off limits, religion, illness, all of it! I'd love to see this show, thanks for posting about it. And yes, you were so lucky to get tickets!

  6. Sounds like an interesting show, will have to see if it's coming our way :)

  7. Glad you had a fun night. I never really got into south park (which is strange, anyone who knows my sense of humor would assume I love it)...but I love musicals, and I like the no-holds-barred approach to humor. I'll keep it on my list of "maybe someday" musicals!

  8. I was really interested in your take on the show. I'm a lapsed Mormon, so I'm sure I would really enjoy seeing it. (I also enjoy the social commentary aspect of South Park.) I also find the Mormon church's response to the musical extremely interesting. They have progressed a lot since I was a member. Twenty years ago, they would not have reacted so mildly or even thought to use the publicity to their advantage. I'm impressed with their response. I think they still have room to improve, of course, but I'm glad to see the church being more accepting and transparent.


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