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The power of theater compels you …
‘Book of Mormon’ at the Forrest (fourth review)
The Book of Mormon converted my mother, not to become a member of the LDS church, but to be open-minded about what shows to see.
Hearing who created this musical made her leery, but as a lifelong theatergoer, she entertained the idea of seeing it. “It won nine Tonys, so it must be good, right?”
She wouldn’t be the first person to attend because of the gaggle of awards it won. Since she’s someone who loved The Phantom of the Opera, 42nd Street, and other more traditional fare, though, I was concerned that she might not enjoy The Book of Mormon (BOM) as much. I did get her to see the satiric and clever Urinetown, but BOM is on a whole other level (several levels down, actually) of satire and salty language.
We watched the YouTube videos of “Hello” and “I Believe,” two of the few songs that don’t include any four-letter words. They’re catchy; she was sold. After we bought our tickets, I kept thinking “The woman who sent me to Catholic school is going with me to see the potty-mouth musical of the century.”
I think she was a little concerned.
Are you really ready?
“I told my friend that we’re going to see The Book of Mormon,” she said. “He loves theater and said, ‘Oh, it’s really funny.’ Then, ‘Has your daughter prepared you?’ I told him you told me about the language and that we’ll watch South Park. He said, ‘Good idea.’”
I had to – BOM was created by the men who thought up Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo, a talking and singing Santa hat-wearing piece of feces. Did I think he’s particularly amusing? No. But the episode in which he appears satirized political correctness surrounding the holidays, which I did appreciate.
So Mom and I watched South Park. “Sometimes, the creators use the show as social commentary,” I said, knowing many of the hundreds of episodes they’ve produced do just that. Unfortunately, we watched a simply sophomoric episode aiming to make people (especially 12-year-old boys, I think) laugh. No social commentary, just Cartman telling Kyle again and again to suck a certain body part.
“Where’s the social commentary in that?” she asked.
Certainly not where Cartman thought it was.
A barrage of f-bombs
At BOM, when the first f-bomb dropped, I flinched and checked Mom through my peripheral vision. She was watching the show intently, as she always does. When the hell dream happened (Elder Price’s version includes being in the fire pit with Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, Johnnie Cochran, and twirling Mormon-forbidden cups of coffee), she laughed out loud and wiped her eyes when the song ended (as did I). At the end of Act 2, she stood with everyone else — a well-earned standing ovation for all that singing and dancing, especially the interpretive number explaining the story Elder Cunningham told the villagers. (My eyes are still recovering, though. If you’ve seen it, you know, but I can’t accurately begin to describe it).
Was it the best show I — a lifelong theatergoer myself — have ever seen? No, but it was far from the worst. I laughed out loud at a lot of it and was only mildly embarrassed once (again, the interpretive dance . . . the poor frogs . . . ).
Still, it was the most amazing show. Mom’s telling everyone I’ve expanded her horizons. (Or maybe I’ve ruined her, and she’s headed for her own hell dream in which she starts to like bawdy theater and drop f-bombs by the mouthful.)
All I know is she keeps saying she laughed so much, which she did (I saw her!), and she had a great time. “And I want to see Kinky Boots.”
For a review by Naomi Orwin, click here.
For a review by Steve Cohen, click here.
For a review by Carol Rocamora, click here.
To read Dan Rottenberg’s review of the Broadway production, click here.
What, When, Where
The Book of Mormon. Book, music, and lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone. Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker directed. Through September 14 at the Forrest Theatre, 1114 Walnut St., Philadelphia. Tickets and information: 800-447-7400 or http://www.forrest-theatre.com/the-book-of-mormon.html.
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