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The Book of Mormon, Outrageously, Profanely Funny

Book of Mormon Hello
Courtesy CBS 2012 Tony Awards via YouTube

From the first notes of the introductory opening number, “Hello”, to the rousing finale “Tomorrow is a Latter Day”, you are keenly aware that The Book of Mormon is definitively different from any musical you’ve seen before.

Profane? Yes. That most certainly was to be expected from the irreverent creators of South Park (remember South Park Jesus versus Santa, or Jesus versus Satan’s boxing match?) and Avenue Q. What came as a surprise to me as I watched the show, was, it is also profound, thought-provoking and an equal opportunity offender.

It not only skewers Mormonism, but jabs at Catholicism, Judaism and other organized and dis-organized religion. Is it blasphemous? Probably. (Any show which gathers Hitler, cannibalistic serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and O.J.’s late attorney Johnnie Cochran as denizens in the “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” is likely to be!).

However, it is anything but mean-spirited about the way it is done. The Book of Mormon follows two newly minted, idealistic missionaries on their journey to Africa and their efforts to spread the word of Jesus as deciphered by their prophet Joseph Smith.

The odyssey isn’t an easy one, the pitfalls are many, the rewards, non-existent, and the outcome uplifting and ridiculous all at once. Along the way faith, belief, personal space and even morals are tested and at times violated. There is eye-widening ugliness I can’t even begin to address here.

But it does explain why Mormonism or any “ism” is a hard sell to third-world souls more concerned with civil war, Aids, female circumcision, starvation and death. It also acts as an examination of the questions; “why do such awful things exist in our world?” , “does God answer prayers?” and “why is God’s answer so often,no?”.

It may make you think long and hard about your own convictions and relationship with God. I believe that is always a good thing. Unless religious indignation and inflexibility cause you to leave after the fourth and quite possibly most sacrilegious number, which I also cannot list here.

Aside from the controversial action and impious language, the staging, singing and dancing, as well as the exceptionally talented cast, are beyond entertaining and you will laugh. Perhaps, nervously, at first, but eventually full-out and maybe even wiping away a stray tear.

Or you won’t.

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