A musical written by the creators of South Park is one nomination short of the Tony Award record. It has songs about AIDS, comic lines like “F*ck you, God” and a monologue about maggots in unsavory places. It’s called The Book of Mormon.
This is not the first time Trey Parker and Matt Stone have used the Mormon faith as a creative larder. Their 1997 feature film, Orgazmo, tells the tale of a missionary who becomes a crime-fighting porn star. It was slapped with an NC-17 rating and banned from several cities, though it became a cult classic.
According to enraptured critics and Broadway-goers, The Book of Mormon is their signature satire perfected, perhaps due to the influence of co-creator Robert Lopez (known for Tony-winning musical Avenue Q). It follows a pair of missionaries to Africa, where they find more than they bargained for in trying to convert the locals. The New York Times called it “the best musical of this century,” and Rolling Stone, Vogue, NPR and everybody who’s anybody in the world of media has joined the love fest.
Well, maybe not everybody. Mormon Perspectives, a thoughtful website dedicated to Mormon views on everything, reviewed the show. The reviewer’s overarching thoughts: It’s a very well-done production. It’s pretty accurate. It’s highly vulgar. It’s sacrilegious.
“I certainly would not go see the show with my parents or grandparents,” she writes, “but I was sitting next to a 70-year-old-woman who seemed to be having a great time.”
Why is this the perfect musical for Las Vegas? Innate hyperbole and cheek aside, this city was founded by Mormons in 1855, and a considerable population remains. If they’re worried about being horrified or offended by the content, they should listen to the wisdom of the “Butcher of Broadway,” also known as veteran Times writer Frank Rich: “The satirical tone is far closer to bemused tolerance than blasphemous antipathy.” And we could all use a little more bemused tolerance these days. Even if it means Jesus “speaks like a dude.”