Three years ago when The Book of Mormon first went on tour, Katie, Brittany and two of our friends sat on computers from 11:30 until noon on the day tickets went on sale, so we could be the first in the online queue to get tickets to show. Tickets for that run sold out in less than two minutes, and we didn’t get any. Now, years later, we were finally given the opportunity to see Book of Mormon again (on the third time around). Katie had already gone to see it during the 2nd tour, but Brittany hadn’t yet. She asked one of the other friends from the fateful no-ticket day, who also just happens to have grown-up Mormon, to come to the show with her for some Drama Talk & Drinks at SHN’s Orpheum theater.
Brittany: So, as a person who grew up Mormon, what did you think?
Jose: It was really interesting, I really enjoyed the show. My favorite song was Turn It Off. It captures so well how Mormons deal with things, just bury the bad emotions. The whole beginning was so spot on for Mormon life. I knew kids like Elder Price. I also really appreciated the end message. That someone can make up stories, and adapt them to fit a lived experience, like Elder Cunningham did for the African tribe, and because it resonates with them and offers them hope, it can be gospel. I feel like that’s what Joseph Smith did, adapt the stories of the Bible to fit Americans, so this was just the next generation of that.
B: Yeah, I liked that too. It’s funny. I had high expectations 3 years ago, when the whole run was sold out and I didn’t get tickets. But now so many people have seen it, and have been sort of “meh” about it, I actually came in with somewhat low expectations, and they were blown out of the water, I was impressed. I was worried I was maybe going to be too offended or something, even though I was a South Park fan in college so I don’t know why I thought that, but I liked that it had a positive message. Although a lot of it was South Park humor, poop jokes, sex jokes, whatever, it was smarter than I thought it might have been, and way more nuanced, which pleasantly surprised me. Sure it was offensive, jokes about AIDS and genital mutilation are shocking, but the fact it made us talk about those realities, even if it is through humor, is a net positive. It was way less negative on Mormonism and religion than I thought it might have been too. This is definitely the kinder side of South Park. It wasn’t as cynical as a I was worried it would be.
J: Yeah, I went in with the expectation it was going to be way more negative, but this did a good job recognizing some of the values of religion. I think I can see why the Mormon church doesn’t have big problems with it. That’s why they have an ad in the program advertising the actual Book of Mormon, it was offensive, but not in a hateful way.
B: Yeah. Of course, every time I see a tour at SHN, I’m impressed by the caliber of the actors, and sets, and design, and this is no exception. One thing I thought they did really well though was getting the cartoon like images to come to life in live action. The Spooky Mormon Hell Dream sequence was spot-on, it was so South Park and really funny.
J: Yes and I totally appreciated the idea behind that scene. Spooky Mormon Hell Dreams are for real. I grew up with those perfect Mormon kids, with their almost creepily happy families. I remember once at Mormon summer camp, it was super hot, so I got a Sunkist Orange Soda from a vending machine, because orange soda is usually caffeine free. But for whatever reason it wasn’t caffeine free, and one of the other kids saw it and started calling me “Sin-kissed’ because I was breaking one stupid rule. Some Mormons really are that crazy about rules, so hell dreams happen in Mormon kids childhood, you’re always wanting to break the rules, even though it terrifies you.
The Verdict: Not for kids, not for the easily offended, but otherwise go see it. It’s a delightful show. Not life changing, but really fun, and the message is way more hopeful than anticipated.
The Drama Talk: This show is heartfelt, and a little Disneyfied for South Park, but the less cynical bent makes the show more nuanced and, in our opinion, better. Perhaps they lose out on a few laughs by not going for every joke, but the sincerity made it more feel-good. Also the show is full of smart commentary on society if you care to look deep enough. Examining the way we tell ourselves stories: through religion, Sci-Fi, culture, and mythology. Also how we use those stories to cope with the problems we face as humans, is an interesting thread that’s explored throughout the show. Obviously a very talented cast, and super flashy set like any Broadway tour. Also an Ex-Mormon says the portrayal of Mormons is spot-on, so that’s got to be worth something.
The Drinks: After the show, we decided to check out The Beer Hall down the street. Jose got the Wells and Young Stout (like Brigham Young) and Brittany got a Prairie Artisan Wild Saison (you know because Mormons live on the prairie) and they toasted to a hilarious night of drama talk and drinks.
The Book of Mormon runs through June 1st at SHN’s Orpheum Theater. Tickets are available through SHN’s website for $80-$200. They are also doing a $29 ticket lottery for every show, so show up 2 ½ hours before any performance to try your luck at the drawing. Two tickets are available per winner. At the moment Goldstar also has tickets for sale for $75.