Who could blame them? Despite the Tony Award-winning musical’s widespread acclaim, it’s impossible to be entirely prepared for the sledgehammer barrage of crazy-profane, nothing-is-sacred humor.
My wife was pleased that the man and woman left; she could finally see past the tall guy’s head.
But did we really even need to witness the rest of the performance?
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We laughed at “The Book of Mormon.” A lot. Particularly during the first half, which ends by resolving the storyline’s primary challenge and sapping potential from the rest of the show.
But by intermission, I wasn’t just less interested in the remaining plot about clueless Mormon missionaries visiting Africa. I had a strange, bummed-out feeling about why we were all guffawing.
My take isn’t unique. Since it opened on Broadway in 2011, “The Book of Mormon” has lit an incendiary debate about satire versus tasteless comedy. Some reviewers have found its depiction of African stereotypes to be racist. It’s tough to disagree. It often feels like “South Park” running wild on Red Bull and steroids — finally released from the shackles of Comedy Central’s already-lenient television censors. This makes sense, considering that “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone co-wrote “The Book” with Robert Lopez (“Avenue Q”).
If you love scatological humor, you’ll be brought to tears. But if you’re bored by jokes involving sacred books jammed up rectums or infant rape, or you find yourself yawning during dance numbers involving choreographed diarrhea simulations, well …
As others have noted, “The Book of Mormon” doesn’t just stomp a mud hole in the chest of Mormonism (and it nails those gags perfectly). It gleefully trashes faith, in general. There’s something depressing about that. (I am not a churchgoer, incidentally. Just a confirmed Lutheran as a kid.)
The cast is mostly fantastic: gifted, energetic, even athletic. The show is layered, fast-paced and pokes fun at other musicals, despite being formulaic itself. “Hello,” that brilliantly annoying Mormon doorbell-ringing song, is still stuck in my tortured head.
Is “The Book of Mormon” genuinely mean? Maybe I’m as naïve as Elder Cunningham, but when it comes to Broadway smashes visiting Boise, I walked out feeling a lot better after the other “Wicked” experience.