|the Mormons, including Ryan Bondy as Elder Price, center,|
Cody Jamison Strand as Elder Cunningham, right
(photo by Joan Marcus)
|Elder Cunningham (Cody Jamison Strand) converts|
the Africans (photo by Joan Marcus)
Despite the foulest language I've ever heard coming from the stage (no matter how many times I've heard it, "Hasa Diga Eebowai" is still uncomfortable to sit through!), The Book of Mormon is actually a very traditional musical in form and structure. And a huge one at that, with all the bells and whistles of a Broadway blockbuster - fancy set with many moving pieces, crazy costumes (see "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream"), big and fantastic dance numbers (tap-dancing Mormons), a fun and endlessly singable score. This wicked satire is equal opportunity offensive, finding comedy in serious issues like religion, evangelism, racism, violence, and even AIDS. So yes, it's a huge spectacle with shock value, but my theory on why it's such a huge and lasting success is that underneath all this is a really beautiful message of hope, friendship, and community. It's nearly impossible to leave the show without raised spirits and a feeling that perhaps we can make this world a better place, for all of us, despite the horrors that face many of us daily.
If religion is a set of stories, myths, and legends that we humans use to help us understand the joys, sorrows, and mysteries of the world we live in, then theater truly is my religion. And nothing fills my soul like The Book of Mormon.
Ma ha nei bu, Eebowai.
*Plot summary borrowed from last time I saw The Book of Mormon.