Last night I saw the US National Tour version of The Book of Mormon, the musical by the creators of South Park and Avenue Q.
I think there was enough going on it that to properly, fully assess it I should see it twice. I say this with good reason as, even though the show is full of stuff that people will dismiss as crude, there are numerous references to other musicals and also the chorus-singing was often so dense you couldn’t discern every part.
The plot is pretty straightforward and is, in many ways, like an extended South Park episode, which should be unsurprising. It takes a slightly different approach to the material than Orgazmo and “All About Mormons” but there are obvious similarities.
I like to know nothing going into things and I will assume you feel the same. There is no reason to reveal what happens, but it is a useful vehicle for the real reasons to see it: the songs, the satire and, believe it or not, the choreography.
The songs are consistently strong musically, referencing both numbers from past musicals and more contemporary pop music. The lyrics are often biting and usually laugh-out-loud funny. Many of the songs trick you into thinking you are about to hear a less-funny or somewhat-serious number before again ripping on Mormonism, on Uganda, or on any number of other things. Some of the lyrics were hard to decipher because of the sheer number of musical motifs going on at once, which is one reason I would like to buy the soundtrack.
Mormonism is obviously an easy target but so what? It isn’t the only target; others include life in Uganda, FGM, science fiction and fantasy, and sexuality, of course. The satire could be slightly more biting, but I think the songs and choreography make up for it.
The choreography is outstanding. Now, you must understand that I am not a musical watcher per se. I haven’t seen a musical since Evil Dead was in town. But I have seen my fair share of musical films, many of which were elaborately choreographed. And one thing I can say about this show is that the choreography is incredible. It is the perfect fit to the music – sometimes it feels like they were developed as one, which is the way it should be – and it actually adds whole levels to the songs, not only adding a layer of “subtext” – since it isn’t subtle, I feel like I shouldn’t call it that, but subtext it is – but also adding in references to famous musical routines – and routine tropes and cliches – throughout musical history. I am sure that the musical fan could watch this show multiple times just playing “catch the reference,” much like the horror fan with The Cabin in the Woods.
What I am getting at is that this show is South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut‘s homage / parody of Disney musicals taken to a new level of creativity and wit, only with Broadway substituting in for Disney, and Mormonism substituting in for Satan, Saddam, and censorship. It really is that good.
I would highly recommend getting tickets if it is extended. Hell, I would recommend contacting scalpers if the price isn’t too dear. It’s pretty amazing.