I grew up on musicals. I took classes, I watched them, I sung, I admired. I consider myself a bit of an expert when it comes to music theater, (quiz me, go on, I dare you). So when I saw that Book of Mormon was coming to Australia, it quickly got placed at the top of my ‘must see’ list.
I had no idea what it was about, and I didn’t particular care. I just loved pitch perfect songs, the flawless ballads, the sparkles on the costumes, the sets, the dancing, SO.MUCH.TALLENT.
So when my 21-year-old blokey brother sat down at the dinner table recently and declared he would love to see it too, my face literally looked like this:
This is a dude who my mum had to bribe to sit through all of my dance concerts. This is the guy who would say ”can you just tell me about it after?” when I’d invite him to see a theatre show I was in.
So why in GOD’S NAME does he want to go see this musical?
I knew that The Book of Mormon had won over 30 awards and been nominated for almost double that, but I knew that would mean nothing to him.
“The guys who wrote South Park wrote this! It’s full of crude humor and mean jokes, it would be funny as,” he said.
I then found out that this satire creation, centered around the Mormon religion and its place in modern society, was not going to be like other productions I’ve seen before. It has a message, a political one. This is no Wizard of Oz. I was worried. Worried I would go and see this and it would not live up to my expectations of a musical.
Does satire and dark comedy belong on stage? Shouldn’t we leave these kind of messages to cartoons, politicians and comedians?
Fast forward to last week and I saw the production. I must say, I was disappointed and it took me a little while to figure out why. I laughed, there was beautiful costumes, sets, great talent, genius satire, small tributes to musical theater god Bob Fosse, and even a slight play on other great musicals.
What let me down is that the great talent, or even the music and dancing was not the central ‘wow’ factor of this show – it was the message. The satire, the political incorrectness, the crude humor, that’s what this show was about. The musical aspect seemed to be just a fun add on, which as a musical lover, I didn’t appreciate.
To me, musicals are about empowerment, the rise of the little guy, dreams coming true, love. Although The Book of Mormon had this, everything was underlined with some sort of crude joke or message that just ruined it for me.
Was it clever and funny? Hell yeah! Did I bop along because of my itching desire to love every single show tune? You bet I did. But if this is what musicals are going to become, unapologetically rude and full of political satire, I’m not sure I’ll keep attending.
See a clip from the show here