The Broadway musical The Book of Mormon opened to almost universal rave reviews. I guess we Mormons had better develop a more expansive sense of humor.
Peter Marks of The Washington Post, calls TBOM a “pricelessly entertaining act of musical-comedy subversion . . . that opened at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. The mighty O’Neill himself would have to have given it up for this extraordinarily well-crafted musical assault on all things holy.”
According to David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter, “Religious zealots are not going to roll up, but the show manages to have a comic field day with Mormonism while simultaneously acknowledging–maybe even respecting–the right of everyone to follow any faith they choose.”
According to Ben Brantley of The New York Times: “So hie thee hence, nonbelievers (and believers too), to “The Book of Mormon” and feast upon its sweetness.” He goes on to comment on the issue of sacrilege:
. . . This show makes specific use of the teachings of the Mormon Church and especially of the ecclesiastical history from which the play takes its title. Church founders like Joseph Smith and Brigham Young appear in illustrative sequences, as does Jesus and an angel named Moroni. When delivered in musical-comedy style, these vignettes float into the high altitudes of absurdity.
But a major point of “The Book of Mormon” is that when looked at from an angle, all the forms of mythology and ritual that allow us to walk through the shadows of daily life and death are, on some level, absurd; that’s what makes them so valiant and glorious. And by the way, that includes the religion of the musical, which lends ecstatic shape and symmetry to a world that often feels overwhelmingly formless.
Maureen Dowd in an op-ed piece for the NYT calls TBOM “a confetti burst of profanity, blasphemy, hilarity and rapturous reviews.” And continues:
In the end, the message is not against Mormonism but literalism: that whatever our different myths, metaphors and rituals, the real purpose of religion is to give us a higher purpose and a sense of compassion in the universe.
“The moral,” the writer Andrew Sullivan observed on opening night, “is that religion is both insane and necessary at the same time.”
David Brooks in an op-ed piece in the NYT says:
The central theme of “TBOM” is that many religious stories are silly–the idea that God would plant golden plates in upstate NY. Many religious doctrines are rigid and out of touch.
But religion itself can do enormous good as long as people take religious teaching metaphorically and not literally; as long as people understand that all religions ultimately preach love and service underneath their superficial particulars; as long as people practice their faiths open-mindedly and are tolerant of different beliefs.
On the other side of the coin, Terry Teachout of The Wall Street Journal provides the following comment about TBOM musical: “A couple of reasonably effective production numbers notwithstanding, it’s flabby, amateurish and very, very safe.” The latter comment (very, very safe) you wouldn’t expect about a production from the South Park boys. Teachout goes on to say: “Making fun of Mormons in front of a Broadway crowd is like shooting trout in a demitasse cup.”