The Book of Mormon: racy, vulgar, perfect
“Warning: explicit content.”
Those words are printed on every ticket to The Book of Mormon at Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center in Downtown — and with good reason. The musical that cleaned up at the Tony Awards with nine wins last year is one of the most vulgar, inappropriate, and politically incorrect musicals that I’ve ever seen — and I loved every second of it.
For those who may not know, The Book of Mormon is a musical from the minds of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of Comedy Central’s South Park. The musical follows Elder Kevin Price, a young Mormon eager to begin his two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Praying to be sent to Orlando, Price seems to draw the short straw when he is assigned to Uganda with the compulsive liar Elder Arnold Cunningham. Faced with warlords, disease, poverty, and famine, Price realizes that bringing Africans to the church may not be as easy as it initially seemed. Laced with constant jokes, the show had the audience laughing from the opening number.
The Book of Mormon is meant to be one big joke, but the level of humor in the musical does not affect the quality of the show. The amount of work that was put into the production was evident. The vocal performances of each and every cast member was incredible, and the choreography effectively corresponded with each of the numbers. The cast and crew had obviously put an immense amount of effort into polishing the performance, making the show as legitimate as The Lion King or Wicked. It is only due to this level of professionalism that audience members are able to take the more ridiculous parts of the script seriously.
However, what makes The Book of Mormon different from most musicals is that it was written to offend. There are racial slurs and vulgar language everywhere, and direct jabs at organized religion come at every turn. It crosses every line and breaks all the rules. While on the surface it may seem a ridiculous, crude excuse for a musical, the satire is very poignant. The Book of Mormon is only as ridiculous as the concept it criticizes. The message it tries to project through the use of flamboyant Elders and the hyperbolized ignorance of the Ugandans rings true whether people adhere to an organized religion or not.
The Book of Mormon is really about how organized religion isn’t necessarily a requirement for being a good person, helping others and making a difference. And while it does make fun of religion, it also teaches respect for others’ beliefs, no matter how far-fetched they might seem.
Although the production at the Benedum Center ended yesterday, it’s worth the trip to find another production. Look past the offensiveness and see the genius beneath the jokes. It won’t disappoint.