The Triumph Of "The Book Of Mormon"


Ben Brantley delivers a rave review after the opening night I am still recovering from:

This is to all the doubters and deniers out there, the ones who say that heaven on Broadway does not exist, that it’s only some myth our ancestors dreamed up. I am here to report that a newborn, old-fashioned, pleasure-giving musical has arrived at the Eugene O’Neill Theater, the kind our grandparents told us left them walking on air if not on water. So hie thee hence, nonbelievers (and believers too), to “The Book of Mormon,” and feast upon its sweetness.

That word "sweetness" does not spring to mind when you think of Eric Cartman serving Scott Tenorman's parents to him, like Titus, in the classic "Scott Tenorman Must Die". But the real genius of Parker-Stone is precisely the underlying humaneness of their view of the world, packaged in surreal, scatological, obscene and invariably hilarious scripts and performances. South Park episodes rarely end without reconciliation. And The Book Of Mormon - while wildly blasphemous - becomes by its end a loving celebration of religious faith, stripped of its obsessive logical contradictions, idiotic neurosis and literalist and fundamentalist certainties. Rule 23 versus Rule 72 in Utah becomes "Fuck You God In The Cunt" in Uganda. The comedy inherent in juxtaposing desperate black Africans with earnest white Americans never quite distracts us from the message underneath.

That is not so say that Matt and Trey are proselytizing. They are merely judging faith by its actions, and judging Mormonism by Mormons. We need a higher calling, they seem to say as an empirical observation; we need a grander narrative; and if religion can do that, and bring compassion to the world, why should we stand in the way?

The innate small-c conservatism of the duo endures. This is an almost classically traditional musical score, each song unique, but united and woven together in show-stopping finales. Their blend is of subversive material filtered through tradition and sincerity. There is no cynicism here. Yes there is General Butt-Fucking Naked. There is an African woman called Neosporin. There is a fantastic send-up of Bono; a lovely dig at Johnnie Cochrane; some rudely sodomized frogs; and a baptism that sounds like sex. But there are also moments of unexpected poignancy, as when an African woman discovers that she has in fact been deceived.

It is the best thing they have ever done - musically, theatrically, comically. They are slowly becoming the Hogarths and Swifts of our time - because by trashing the world with anarchic humor and biting commentary, they are obviously also intent on saving it. And loving it regardless.