Mormons on Broadway

The new Broadway musical, The Book of Mormon, has gotten a lot of attention lately.  The theatre world is abuzz because it’s apparently really good.  The critic for The New York Times, for example, calls it “heaven on Broadway.”  The show has 14 Tony Award nominations, more than any other musical this year.  The Mormon world is abuzz because, well, it’s a very high profile depiction of Mormon missionaries, written by the (in)famously crude and profane creators of South Park and Avenue Q.  Not surprisingly, the show is crude, profane, and makes fun of cherished doctrines and core institutions of the church.  And that makes us nervous. 

I happened to be in the car this afternoon and heard an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air program with Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of the play.  The audio feed and related story are available here.  Parker and Stone discussed the creation of the play, the their views on Mormons and Mormonism, and what they were hoping to do.  They also played excerpts of certain songs (the parts that were suitable for broadcast over the public airwaves).  The interview was super interesting, and frankly, I thought that what they had to say about Mormons was pretty positive.  Essentially, they’re skeptical of the religion and the crazier parts of the stories we believe, but they acknowledge every belief system has its crazy parts and, at the end of the day, the Mormons really do offer something good and positive. 

I enjoyed, in particular, what the Parker and Stone had to say about the Church’s official response to the musical.  They said it was exactly the sort of response they had expected, and that it stands as “Exhibit A” for the decency and generosity of the Church. 

A more full-fledged opinion about the show itself will have to wait until I see it (if I ever do).  The profanity and vulgarity give me pause.  And I do think that the authors and other (non/anti/pro)religious folk are wrong to think that the LDS church “moves along oblivious to real-world problems in a kind of blissful naiveté.”   On the other hand, based on the clips played during the interview, I suspect that there’s a lot of other material that the show gets just right (the “Hello” song and the “Turn it Off” songs were pretty spot-on).

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