“The Book of Mormon”: An “All-American” Musical

The Broadway musical that caught the world by storm in 2011 returned to Denver this October for its second U.S. tour. “The Book of Mormon,” written by Robert Lopez and “South Park” co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, won nine Tony Awards in 2011 including Best Musical.

The musical follows two Mormon missionaries as they travel to Uganda in hopes of changing the world and bringing all of the Ugandans to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The missionaries face a stark reality as they land in the African countryside and discover the severe problems that plague the country’s citizens. Stories of AIDS, rape, warlords and poverty prevail, and the missionaries must find a way to overcome the challenges and bring people to the church.

The storyline, however, is simply a mode by which the musical lampoons everything within reach. “The Book of Mormon” shamelessly satirizes both the credibility of the LDS Church and organized religion in general. The musical implies that religious books contain nothing but made up stories, but those stories metaphorically lead to something bigger.

“We discovered that we all had the same feelings about religion and God—that God doesn’t exist and yet somehow he does,” Robert Lopez said of him and his co-creators Parker and Stone in an interview with “Applause” magazine. “And that even though the stories are made up, the leap of faith that people make makes them better people.”

The LDS Church responded somewhat well to the musical initially, highlighting the distortion that the musical’s parody of the religion provides. In an April 2011 statement, the church said the danger of the show was in people leaving the production and believing the depiction of Mormons on stage to be completely accurate. The Church even took out advertisements in the playbills for many of the musical’s venues with quip phrases like “you’ve seen the play, now read the book” and “the book is always better.”

During the past two years, criticism of the musical subsided. Sold out venues across the country speak to the widespread popularity of the show. So, what makes this musical so incredibly amazing? Perhaps it’s the tantalizing music, which lampoons contemporary Broadway musicals. Maybe it’s the literary themes that reside behind the script. But most likely it’s the fact that the show shamelessly tackles religion, homosexuality and racial stereotypes despite the U.S.’s seeming obsession with being politically correct.

Though listening to the entire album on repeat can satisfy any “Book of Mormon” craving, nothing compares with seeing the live production. Do not wait around in hopes that “The Book of Mormon” will return for a third Denver tour. Call the box office, snag those few remaining tickets and see the show before it leaves Denver on Nov. 24.

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