Referring to himself as a recovering Mormon; my husband has anxiously wanted to see the acclaimed and award winning musical Book of Mormon. We waited for lottery tickets twice while in the Big Apple two summers ago. Lottery tickets back then were sold for around $100-$450, so even if we had won we would not have seen it for those prices.
BoM has recently come to Los Angeles. We bought two tickets for seats off to the far left which were separated by two rows, for $30 dollars a piece, and saw it yesterday.
I was a performing arts student in high school and love to sing and dance; have an appreciation for performers in general. I also have a snobbery I acquired while taking one of a few understanding theater type courses in college; of public event type plays. These are the plays the non-theater goer will attend, because everyone is attending it, therefore they must too! Whether it be Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, or Wicked, they will love and enjoy every minute of the public event play! Typically this theater goer won’t have seen a Neil Simon, Tom Stoppard, Beckett, Moliere, Shakespeare, or any other heady playwright’s plays. Which is okay. It just makes for a crowd of people who love a large budgeted piece much as they love a giant action movie. They tend to love both in a nondiscretionary way.
Onto my unpopular review of Book of Mormon, which has put a lot of performing artists to work; that I appreciate.
The play begins by using in-your-face satire. Mormon missionaries sing and attend training, are overly eager and earnest to do right by their parents and their beloved church and God. Elder Price really, really wants to do his away-from-home time in Orlando, but instead of being placed somewhere cozy like Orlando, Norway, or France, he is sentenced to Uganda. This is a very impoverished third world African nation torn by warlords. Hilarity ensues! Well, it felt like it did for the majority of the audience, just not me. There were some comical moments I did chuckle at.
The opening song sung by the Ugandan villagers is Hasa Diga Eebowai, a made up word used by the plays locals to say fuck you to God. Most of the villagers have aids, one has maggots in his scrotum, and a warlord wants all of the females to have a forced by him and his soldiers female circumcision; a grown man has raped an infant to cure himself of aids, and the villagers in general seem like childish idiots.
I have to say, I do not recall seeing any African Americans in the audience, although there were an abundance of AA performers on the stage. I wonder to myself that this portrayal of the harsh reality, however cartoonishly resented in the name of humor and comic relief, isn’t offensive to black people in general? Even people who may have little education due to their nations conditions, are not “village idiots” as they are portrayed to be by this musical.
I have read Helen Cooper’s The House at Sugar Beach, Leymah Gbowee’s Mighty Be Our Powers, Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone, and other books about the brutal warlord Charles Taylor and his Revolutionary United Front’s child abducted and brainwashed soldiers. The accounts of what has gone on in that region, and areas like it are a nightmare an audience sitting in Hollywood couldn’t begin to fathom. How would a survivor of these sorts of things feel about having their areas extreme problems exploited in song and dance numbers? How many people sitting in these audiences have read these autobiographical accounts?
I found the play to be distasteful. Sure, it pokes fun at the stupidity of a religion so inculcated in it’s own goodness and righteousness that it may in fact go into places like that and preach to them of their crazy God and ways. I understand that extremely religious people take themselves seriously and deeply believe that they have the cure for all that ails others, even if they’ve never lived a day in the lives of those they are trying to convert. I just wonder that this “satirical musical” is really satirical and funny at all, or just simply in poor taste and thrust upon an unthinking and uncaring America. Is Book of Mormon donating any of their proceeds to the war torn type places they are making fun of? Our actors indicated at the end of the play that they were donating money to an aids foundation, and so should we.
Maybe I just don’t have the right sense of humor, after all, I find Halloween mostly distasteful too. I will have to see if anyone else shares my unpopular non-love for this musical. I am sure I am the only one who thinks this way.