Tuesday, April 2, 2013

You Haven't Seen a Broadway Musical Until You've Seen 'Book of Mormon'

by Sarah Davis
Pittsburgh- Book of Mormon, the hit Broadway musical and unforgiving satire from the creators of South Park, will be playing in Pittsburgh at the Benedum Center until April 7. You haven't seen a Broadway musical until you've seen Book of Mormon. Nothing is off limits from the brutal reality of satire, including religion, female genital mutilation, rape of babies and AIDS. Even in the midst of such topics, though, you can't help but have the best laugh you've had in a long, long time.  If you walk in a little confused about what to expect, you’ll immediately catch on when you begin to hear curse words being tossed around-- that you are not, by any means, in the midst of a serious crowd.

Two eager missionaries from Salt Lake City are sent to Uganda to convert a small village, filled with AIDS, violence, and constant fear of horrors like female genital mutilation, to Mormonism. Once they arrive, immediately, their luggage is stolen-- and from there on out, they realize converting this eclectic group of Africans, including a dangerous General named 'General ButtFuckingNaked' and a young girl named Nabulungi, seems impossible. The Mormons who are already there encourage the two to turn off their emotions, in a song called "Turn it Off" (including the leader of the group- who turns off his thoughts of feeling gay because even though he loves pink luggage, embracing the idea would be considered a sin, so he clicks those feelings off.)

While there is literally no scene that you will feel bored with, one of the more shocking is the Hell scene, "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream", which is a dream about what Hell would be like for a Mormon, after one of the missionaries realizes he’s failing on what he was sent to Uganda to do. It is filled with characters like Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, and dancing coffee cups (Mormons can't have caffeine). In another scene, goofy Elder Cunningham, who admits he has never really read the Book of Mormon, tells the story of the religion using absolute nonsense (for instance, saying that Joseph Smith wanted to rape a baby, but God told him to rape a frog instead and an appearance from select Star Wars characters). Even though his story uses absurdities, the people of this village still manage to find the faith they need to overpower the General--even convert the General.

All laughs aside, one of the biggest topics to arise during the musical is, do we even fully understand religion anyway? When people tell you about a religion, there is a huge chance that they're getting the story mixed up, even mixing in their own pop culture heroes, and yet, people don't even care what the story is. The story could be anything, just as long as there is a sense of hope coming out of it.

Regardless of what you take away from Book of Mormon, it is truly one of the best performances I've seen come through Pittsburgh. I would see it again and again-- it is absolutely brilliant. Even if it pokes fun at heavy issues, I can honestly say that it inspires you to stop taking everything so seriously and have a good laugh. At the show, at yourself, at the world. And, to be yourself. Because being yourself, no matter how much religious officials think you'll never get it right or how much of reject you may think you are, can sometimes change people's lives more than religion.

On an interesting last note: After seeing the play, I immediately Google'd, "What do Mormons actually think of Book of Mormon, the play?" Wouldn't anyone? As it turns out, they think it gets people talking and opens the door to the culture. They think it's such a good idea, in fact, that they pay for full page ads (yes, more than one) in every program passed out.

Sarah Davis is a distinguished journalist, motivational writer, and founder of Style & Wisdom. She has a firm grasp on pop culture, celebrity news/style, and self improvement.  She believes that Style & Wisdom is an inspirational take on pop culture; a place where you can find inspiration, and a healthy escape. Bored with most self-help blogs, she created Style & Wisdom to be a combination of the things every woman searches for on the internet: self improvement, style, and a little celebrity news.  She's interviewed celebrities, actors, authors, charity founders, dancers, fashion designers, artists, and anyone who offers the world a little inspiration. Style & Wisdom was founded in 2011 and has continued to grow daily. 

Follow Style & Wisdom on Twitter, @styleandwisdom, or follow Sarah, @sarahdavistvr

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