I expected to be shocked by “The Book of Mormon,” the new Broadway musical by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
And I was… in an unexpected way.
There are a couple of potentially offensive moments — one in song, one in shall we say ‘visual representation’ — but last night’s audience was game for both.
The show definitely takes its shots at Mormon history and traditions, getting a lot of laughs from the story of Joseph Smith and his golden plates. But the humor, while mocking, is never cruel.
What was unexpected was how much affection Parker and Stone display for the Mormon missionaries at the center of their story. Elders Price and Cunningham are sent to Uganda for their mission and are immediately confronted by poverty, AIDS, warlords, scrotal plagues and more.
Naive and ill-prepared, uber-Mormon Price has a crisis of faith and schlub Cunningham rises to the occasion in unconventional yet successful ways.
The tone reminded me a bit of the movie Stuck on You, the Farrelly brothers winner about two conjoined twin brothers starring Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon. I worried the film would make fun of the two; instead, it celebrated how their differences made them more uniquely able to succeed in the world.
“The Book of Mormon” has the same charm, the same heart…just more four-letter words.
Above all, it is outrageously funny, with sight gags galore, none of which I will reveal because that would totally blow it. The musical numbers are so clever, and the dance sequences manage to be huge and hilarious at the same time.
“The Book of Mormon” just may be the best musical on Broadway.
Now that I didn’t expect.