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Even on the road, ‘Book of Mormon’ is still sharp


The entire run of “The Book of Mormon” at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre is sold out and for good reason.
It’s the biggest hit Broadway has seen in years and this is the first chance audiences around here have had to see it.

I was lucky enough to have seen “The Book Of Mormon”
on Broadway in only its second week of existence, smack dab in the middle of all the media frenzy over the show.

I have never ever witnessed a more spontaneous standing ovation than I did at that show. The audience just seemed to erupt from its seats, roaring its approval.

It was a great theatrical experience for me – to see an audience in such rapture … and the show was pretty good too.

So, a year an a half later I was very curious to see how a roadshow version of “The Book of Mormon” would fare. I’m happy to report, it’s every bit as sharp as its Broadway counterpart.

And by sharp I mean smart and funny and poignant and vulgar and juvenile all jumbled together.

The show follows a couple of naive American Mormon missionaries who are sent to an impoverished, war-torn, AIDS-stricken African village to preach the Mormon gospel.

The fish-out-of-water culture clash provides a show’s worth of crude jokes and, as you’d expect, there are plenty of pot shots taken at the Mormon faith, but there are plenty of barbs at the expense of a lot of other people as well, like do-gooders the world over.

In a parody of Bono and we-are-the world anthems, a whiter than white guy sings of being more African than the Africans.

He sings: I am Africa, with the strength of the cheetah, my native voice will ring.

Of course the musical is also outrageously profane. This is, after all, made by the creators of the outrageously profane “South Park” series, but in spots it’s surprisingly moving as well, as in an anthem to describe literal heaven on earth. She is native African envisioning Salt Lake City in a way that is funny and heartwarming in equal measures.

That’s the key to the success of “The Book of Mormon” – it’s rude and crude but also sentimental. It ends up being a secular defense of religion. The show’s creators may not be able to see their way to the Mormon faith but they seem to argue that religion can make us aspire to be better people. And what’s so bad about that?

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