‘The Book of Mormon’ Never A Musical Classic

Grace Johnson-DeBaufre, Op-Ed Editor


I got to see The Book of Mormon on Broadway the other day and though I love the musical and think it’s thoroughly enjoyable, it will never be a true Broadway classic. The Book of Mormon is a religious satire musical by Trey Parker, Matt Stone (best known for creating South Park) and Robert Lopez (co-writer of Avenue Q). The Book of Mormon (BoM) tells the story of two young Mormon missionaries who are sent to a village in northern Uganda to share the Book of Mormon and try to baptize the locals into the Church. Naïve and optimistic, they have trouble connecting with the locals, who are more worried about poverty, AIDS, and the brutal warlord terrorizing their village than about religion.

According to Scott Brown of the New York Times, The Book of Mormon resurrects the balls-out Broadway musical,” and I’m inclined to agree (although I didn’t  know there was a “balls-out” musical to resurrect).  This musical is not for your average 65+ person, or Conservatives, or Mormons. BoM is bold; it offends people and it relishes it. Though I appreciate BoM’s gutsy and hilarious take on what I think are interesting themes, it is because of this that BoM will never make the list of Classic American Musicals.

Years from now BoM won’t be remembered fondly and shared by parents with their children. Why? Firstly, it’s too young and too crass. The language is really vulgar (though funny) and no school or parent (or at least the vast majority) would want/approve of their youth hearing so many swear words in a musical.

Secondly, the material handled in the musical is both too topical and too radical to allow for BoM to become a timeless and beloved musical. BoM obviously mocks the Mormon faith, but it also mocks basically everything else (from liberals to other religions) much like South Park does. While the (often crass) digs it takes at everything is what makes it so appealing and entertaining now, I feel like in the future our brand of humor will have evolved beyond crass mocking (or at least we won’t find the South Park brand of humor as funny as when we were young).

While I do believe that The Book of Mormon won’t ever be more than a brief entertaining and shocking fad in musical theater (only to be resurrected in college performances), I still think that more liberal-minded people should see it while it’s still on Broadway. It’s lively and hilarious, with some really great numbers that will have you dancing in your seat and/or busting a gut. I also really support the themes of the musical. Though it mocks Mormonism and organized religion in general, I think it actually makes some really poignant points about faith, community, and social change. Though it won’t maintain its popularity in the future, that’s no reason not to see it or at least listen to the soundtrack while it’s still a big deal.