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Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Book of Mormon Musical: A Review

by Seattle Jon (bio)

The other day a group of us (including three MMM contributors) got together to take in The Book of Mormon musical. As I posted to Instagram moments before entering Seattle's Paramount Theatre, I was "ready to be offended, humored and quite possibly inspired." In the end, I was all three. Here's my review of The Book of Mormon.

First, let me state: I think this musical is worth seeing. Yes, it might be hard for some to disregard the show's vulgarity and irreverence, but if you can, the entertainment value, lovable characters and subtle messages of faith and hope will make the effort worthwhile.

Despite the production's title, the musical has very little to do with the scriptural Book of Mormon. There are a couple of framing scenes in which we see golden plates being buried in "ancient upstate New York." We also have brief glimpses of Mormon and his son Moroni. Then the music begins, with an up-tempo, very catchy and well-choreographed number featuring ten male missionaries proclaiming, "This Book Will Change Your Life." I was hooked.

The main missionary companionship – Elder Price and Elder Cunningham – nailed the two ends of the mormon missionary spectrum. Elder Price is the type of guy who earned all the awards, was president of every youth quorum and read the book of mormon five times before his mission. Elder Cunningham is a science fiction nerd, socially inept and a pathological liar. Fireworks ensue.

There is an ensemble of other missionaries once Elder Price and Elder Cunningham get to Africa, and the scene the first night in their apartment was perfect. Elders Price and Cunningham are depressed after their luggage gets stolen, so the other missionaries help with out by sharing a simple mormon strategy.
You say you got a problem
Well, that’s no problem,
It’s super easy not to feel that way

When you start to get confused
Because of thoughts in your head
Don’t feel those feelings
Hold them in instead

Turn it off
Like a light switch
Just go click
It’s a cool little mormon trick
We do it all the time

When you're feeling certain feelings that just don't seem right
Treat those pesky feelings like a reading light

And turn 'em off
Light a light switch
Just go back
Really, what's so hard about that
Turn it off
Turn it off
The song "Spooky Mormon Hell" is hilarious, but maybe more theologically accurate in mainstream Christianity where the belief that more than a few of humankind will end up in hell is more prevalent. The life-size dancing Starbucks cups, meant to be one aspect of mormon hell, was even more funny to this Seattle guy where there literally is a Starbucks on every corner.

Finally, there is the ballad "I Believe," sung by Elder Price when he heads back to the mission field after having a bit of a crisis of faith. "I am a mormon, and a mormon just believes," he sings. This brilliant song spoke deeply to me as I continue to feel the pressure to believe despite the apparent irrationality of some of mormonism's beliefs.

The Book of Mormon certainly casts a skeptical eye at belief systems, but its jibes aren't malicious, and it never mocks the value of faith. In the end, the musical has some very positive things to say about mormons, who are depicted as naïve but committed to helping everyone they can and trying to improve their corners of the world.

So if The Book of Mormon musical comes to a corner of your world, I recommend you go.

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