Posted April 3, 2015
By MELISSA RAE OSTROFF
CHICAGO — “The Book of Mormon,” a highly anticipated spring show here, had a full house and lots of energy from the audience, with a standing ovation at the end of the show.
This satire of religion by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone has the same type of humor as an offensive cartoon show, such as “South Park.”
In fact, prior to creating this musical, Parker and Lopez wrote and produced that successful cartoon. Besides composing the music for “The Book of Mormon” Lopez is best known for creating the music for “Avenue Q,” which is another musical.
“The Book of Mormon” centers around two junior Mormon missionaries who have just been assigned to work in Uganda, with their goal being to convert the residents of a small, isolated village to Mormonism. The main problem that these villagers face is the threat of a vicious tyrant who wants to take over their village.
Despite this, the missionaries attempt to teach the villagers about Mormonism. In the process, they learn about the many struggles of these villagers, including: combat, starvation and diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
This parody of organized religion pokes fun at the plausibility of the church’s teachings as well as the missionaries who dedicate their lives to spreading Mormonism. The missionaries in this musical are represented as happy-go-lucky, blind followers of faith. They mean well, but have no idea of what they will face.
The cast was lively and seemed to enjoy interacting with the audience. One of the most well done scenes was the baptism between one of the missionaries and a female villager. It was absolutely hilarious and truly captured the essence of this musical; daring humor combined with taboo religious topics.
On the surface, this musical seemed to mercilessly bash Mormonism. However, when looking closer, there is a deeper message about religion within “The Book of Mormon” that is not entirely sinister.
It is evident from the musical that the Mormon teachings cannot literally solve the problems that the villagers face: tyranny and disease. However, one must never take anything too literally, including religion, “The Book of Mormon” argues. Stone was also quoted as saying that this musical is “an atheist’s love letter to religion.”
Similarly, the only way one can enjoy this musical without being extremely offended is to not take it too seriously. The writers did not leave any topic immune from mockery: from rape to violence involving children, “The Book of Mormon” pokes at even the most unspeakable of topics.
Some might take issue with the musical’s portrayal of Africans. The way that they are presented is based off of stereotypes and the musical pokes fun at these generalizations and behaviors traditionally associated with African villagers, such as barbarism, diseases and senseless violence. The costumes were a caricature of the traditional African dress stereotypes, such as clothes made out of straw and elaborate, tribal headdresses.
This musical won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who like slapstick comedy against the backdrop of inappropriate humor, then this musical is a must-see.
The music was not anything extraordinary but the songs were definitely the type that would get stuck in one’s head. The lyrics managed to be offensive yet catchy at the same time, which is hard to pull off. The choreography was also well-done and fun to watch. Everyone in the audience could not stop laughing. The set, lighting and sound were dynamic and reflected the ever-changing scenes of the village.
The “Book of Mormon” is satisfying to a certain kind of audience; people who enjoy satire and like to have a good laugh. While not meant to be taken seriously, this musical mocks serious topics, which could be problematic for some.
- Where: Bank of American Theater (18 W. Monroe St., Chicago, Ill. 60603)
- Dates: Now playing — May 17
- Duration: 150 minutes
- Times: Tuesdays-Fridays, 7:30 p.m., Saturdays. 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sundays: 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
- Ticket Prices: $65-$140