The Book of Mormon – a surprising stroke of genius

I’m in love… with a musical. The most unexpected, obscene, blasphemous, sweet, heartwarming, clever, and hilarious musical I’ve ever listened to. That’s right… I haven’t evenseen this show yet, but the broadway cast recording is enough to inspire me to blog about it.

It’s called The Book of Mormon, and I find the story fascinating – not just the show’s plot, but the story surrounding the production. For one, it’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s first venture into the world of musical theatre – two men who spent their entire career in animated television and film. A meeting between these two South Park show-runners and Avenue Qcomposer Robert Lopez inspired them to write a Broadway musical after the three of them discovered their mutual fascination with Mormonism. After seven years in the making, The Book of Mormon debuted in March 2011 to rave reviews from The New York TimesWashington Post, and countless other high-profile critics.

What I find most fascinating is the overwhelmingly positive response to the show. It’s a show that addresses issues such as AIDS, poverty, loss of faith, and a scrotum infested with maggots. A show that tears apart the very idea of organized religion without any attempt at subtlety. And yet, people adore this taboo-riddled production. Tickets are sold out for months, with scalpers selling premium seats for as much as $900. Some are saying that this show is going to revitalize broadway – a world currently churning out mostly adaptations and revivals. In fact, Mormon is one of the only original shows this season.

Its success comes from the way Parker and Stone handle this difficult and depressing subject matter. They don’t have the characters wallow in sadness or try to dampen the fact of their unfortunate situation. Instead, they embrace their issues in some of the most catchy, upbeat songs to ever come out of Broadway. Ben Brantley of the New York Times claims that the show achieves “nothing short of a miracle”. And I have to agree. The songs have the most incredible energy. I’ve never felt so happy before while listening to a musical. These are the kinds of songs that inspire you to sing and dance out of sheer joy. Trey and Matt manage to offend everyone with any sort of religious belief, but in such a beautiful way that it leaves everyone satisfied. As Jon Stewart points out, the show makes a mockery of religion while at the same time celebrating it, and sends everyone out of the theatre on a good note. I’d go as far as to call this the feel-good musical of the past few decades.

Want to hear what all the fuss is about? Head over to Facebook and listen to the entire soundtrack for free. I encourage everyone – no matter your opinion towards musical theatre or organized religion – to go listen at least through the first four songs. That should be enough to let you know if you’ll want to listen to the remainder of the album. And if you get a chance to see this on Broadway… I’ll be incredibly jealous.

© 2024 Sean Gransee