'Book of Mormon' Musical Called Surprisingly Sweet
By PEGGY FLETCHER STACK
© 2011 Salt Lake Tribune
NEW YORK (RNS) — A Ugandan villager in the new Broadway musical from the creators of “South Park” offers a plaintive love song about paradise -- and the object of her yearning is none other than Utah's capital.
“Salvation has a name - Salt Lake-y City,” croons Nabalungi (played by Nikki M. James) in “The Book of Mormon,” which opened for previews at the Eugene O'Neill Theater in February and ended with a standing ovation.
The lyrics are ironic, of course, as is much of the story written and directed by “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, in conjunction with Robert Lopez, who helped compose the award-winning musical “Avenue Q.”
Sure enough, the production, which opens March 24, is bawdy and irreverent. Many believers would see it as a blasphemous assault on scriptures, much like the pair's animated TV series. But the satire and tone were not as hostile as many Mormons feared.
“I was expecting to be offended,” said Anne Christensen, a 22-year-old LDS New Yorker, “but was pleasantly surprised by how incredibly sweet it was.”
Her mother, Janet Christensen, added: “It's not G-rated, but they treated us with affection. And they did their homework.”
The play is a story about faith and doubt, with actions and themes that will be familiar to most Utahns, no matter their religious tradition.
The set includes the outside frame of an LDS temple, with a spinning Angel Moroni on top. There are brief appearances by LDS Church founder Joseph Smith, his successor, Brigham Young, Book of Mormon figures Mormon and Moroni, and Jesus himself.
The main characters, though, are LDS missionaries in white shirts, ties and those ever-present name tags.
The first scene shows about a dozen missionaries happily ringing doorbells and claiming all answers “are in the book,” holding up copies of The Book of Mormon.
For the next two hours, these young men sing about being temptation, sexuality, guilt and fear, and about believing sometimes-ludicrous doctrines. They deal with differences and egos and doubt.