The Book of Mormon

South Park does Broadway


There are a number of elements in The Book of Mormon, the new musical from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, that have almost certainly never before been seen or even approximated on a Broadway stage. A luckless companion-animal called the Fuck Frog, for instance—I'm pretty sure that's a first. And a musical number featuring a sort of singing clitoris—that's a new one, right? I won't bother trying to explain what Darth Vader is doing wandering around in the midst of such rude doings, but there is a reason he's there—along with many, many much-ruder doings. The show is breathtakingly funny. One of the guys with whom I saw it in previews said he laughed so hard he was blowing stuff out of his nose.

Especially when the subject is organized religion, you expect a full-frontal assault from Parker and Stone, and while the show is more thoughtful—and more charming—than you'd anticipate, The Book of Mormon doesn't disappoint. The story begins with a group of freshly-minted young Mormon missionaries being paired off for their first foreign assignments. Two of them draw France; another duo gets Japan. But the odd couple of Elder Price (stalwart Andrew Rannells) and Elder Cunningham (stubby Josh Gad) are informed that they'll be going to Uganda. When they arrive in East Africa, with their fresh shirts and ties and their little Mormon gospels and blinding evangelical smiles, they find a country devastated by murderous tribal warlords and an unending epidemic of AIDS. This is not the land of The Lion King.

Price and Cunningham quickly discover that the beaten-down natives have already been evangelized to death by waves of earlier Christian missionaries. So their shiny new spiel falls on weary ears. Like the Bible tales preached by previous Western interlopers, their story seems to the locals to be of an unlikeliness akin to lies—something about a 19th century rustic who discovered a chronicle of Jesus' previously unheralded exploits in the New World inscribed on golden plates revealed to him by an angel—who of course ordered him not to show these miraculous items to anyone else. Very convenient. What could such white-man balderdash have to do with these Africans' desperate lives, which appear to be playing out well below God's radar? Cunningham sees the people's point, and eventually realizes that, in order to propagate his faith, some radical adjustments—all hilarious—will have to be made.

The Book of Mormon is blessedly free of the overwrought pizzazz and soggy sentimentality so often associated with Broadway musicals. The story and the songs—written by Parker and Stone and Robert Lopez, co-creator of the long-running Broadway hit Avenue Q—are smart and sharply focused (and actually memorable); and the direction—by Parker and Casey Nicholaw, the show's choreographer—is a model of kinetic organization, especially given the sizable cast of missionaries and Africans all dancing and singing and often engaged in other business that would be beyond the ken of, say, Rodgers and Hammerstein. It also helps to have three knockout star performances front and center in such clamorous proceedings. Rannells, who was so good as Four Seasons keyboardist Bob Gaudio in the original Broadway cast of Jersey Boys, and Gad, from The Daily Show and movies like Love and Other Drugs, are ideally matched comic foils and spectacular singers—when they're hitting and holding notes together, the effect is of twin sirens going off. And Nikki M. James, playing a simple-hearted village girl named Nabulungi, is not only a resourceful singer, she also helps temper the general uproar with an affecting emotional glow.

The show might have been nothing more than a riot of Christian-bashing, but there's more to it than that. The writers clearly have no use for the myths and homilies of brand-name religion; but in the end they conclude that even the most unbelievable of gods can be a force for good in the world, bringing comfort and hope to millions, and impelling them toward a higher moral plane. Parker, Stone, and Lopez have clearly given this subject considerable thought, which, amid all the savage laughter, is one of the show's most striking elements.

But it's the fearless writing that launches The Book of Mormon into a previously unimagined theatrical stratosphere. In any other musical, the presence of a character called General Butt Fucking Naked would be cause for remark. Here it's just a minor delight in an unending procession of truly scabrous wonderments.

Kurt Loder is a writer, among other things, embedded in New York. 

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  1. As someone who grew up surrounded by Mormons, I look forward to taking in this show. On side note, has anyone ever noticed the odd similarities between the narratives of Mormons and Muslims?

    1. Abraham founds one true Church.
    2. The Jews ruin it.
    3. Jesus shows up to restore it.
    4. The Christians ruin it.

    Mormons digress with their own Jesus 2.0

    5. Angel appears to local sad-sack in forgotten corner of world (Gabriel + Muhammed, Moroni and J. Smith).
    6. Angel tells sad-sack that this rendition of One True Church is Final Release Candidate for monotheism and that’s that.
    7. Oh, sad-sack is also exalted one, Gets all the pretty girls in the congregation. Some of morally questionable age. But God said its OK so dad needs to be cool with sad-sack tapping his tween and younger.

    Mormonism would’ve taken same tack as Islam, become militant political force with sovereign ambitions. But Mormonism did not appear in political and power vacuum, it appeared during emergence of greatest superpower world has ever seen. So it got neutered and tempered into something much different. Islam? Not so much.

    1. Well, one can leave the Mormon church… alive.

      1. Well, one can leave the Mormon church… alive.

        I am guessing that is side-effect of the neuter-tempered part.

        1. When does Salman Rushdie’s hilarious send-up of Mohammedanism get adapted for the Broadway stage?

          “The writers clearly have no use for the myths and homilies of brand-name religion.”

          Unless it’s the Mohammed brand of religion, eh?

      2. Time to put on our funny underwear now?

      3. Well, one can leave the Mormon church… alive.

        I attribute that to the fact that Mormonism never succeeded in converting a majority of the US population, not to an unwillingness to inflict harm on apostates.

        1. Death for apostasy is in the Koran. I don’t think Mormons consider it a capital offense.

          1. Mormons are from America. So they’ve got it down to a pie-chart schematic. L. Ron Hubbard eat your heart out.


            But at end of day, you’re right. Mormons don’t advocate capital punishment I think for anything. But then again they never really had a chance.

            1. The Mountain Meadows Massacre and the separatist strife going on at the time make me doubt any inherent pacifism in Mormonism.…..s_massacre

              Or was that just a straight mob rape/robbery/kill the witnesses with a few religious reasons thrown in? Tend to agree with Zeitgeist that the reason for Mormonism’s tolerance of apostasy is due to their being geopolitically neutered. That, and no one back then had come up with the idea for using IP law to badger church gadflies. The similarities to Islam are certainly thought provoking.

              1. And then there’s that Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet. Of course, that was a work of fiction, but in reply to the Mormons’ outrage over the story, Conan Doyle merely said the story was “more lurid” than actually history, and regretted that his story gave the impression that murder was “commonplace.”

            2. I don’t know about the whole neutered bit, at least not from Joseph Smith. If you read his sermons, the concept of freedom to choose one’s own way pops up over and over. He even uses the word “liberal” in the classical sense very favorably.

              That, and the teaching that the Constitution had divine guidance in it’s creation, speaks to something very different from Islam.

              Brigham Young, on the other hand, definitely had a much more authoritarian streak. But that is a whole subject of it’s own.

              Disclaimer: I am a Mormon.

          2. My prediction is not based on any scripture, just on the observed behavior of religions that become de facto state religions.

    2. You forgot the enmity to alcohol.

      1. Yeah. The Muslims would’ve been tobacco haters too. But since the camel-herder had no idea what tobacco was when he was making his shtick up…hookahs away!

  2. So when does the sequel (prequel?) with a goat herder who starts having hallucinations after spending too much time alone in the desert premiere? Come to think of it, that one might be good for more than one play.

    1. I don’t doubt that Parker and Stone would be willing to do it, but it would never get off the ground because nobody else would be.

  3. Dumb – dumb – dumb – dumb!
    Dumb – dumb – dumb – dumb!
    Dumb – dumb – dumb – dumb!

    “But, husband, how can you know he’s telling the truth and not simply writing the pages himself?”

    She’s smart – smart – smart – smart!
    Smart – smart – smart – smart!
    Smart – smart – smart – smart!

    1. Of many GREAT episodes, this was one of the best ever!

      1. To me, there’s no topping the “Stanley’s Cup” episode, but most of South Park’s religion episodes are awesome. I especially love the Scientology episode.

        1. Agreed. I will add the World or Warcraft episode to the top five. No, it’s not because I play the game…

  4. The Mormons give their book away for free and despite the reputation it’s very insightful.

  5. I have to admit, I would have expected Seth McFarlane, given his love of showtunes and being a pretentious ass, to have come out with a musical before Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

    1. Well it takes some talent to actually write even a bad musical number and Seth’s manatees are too busy with his show.

      No if you’re talking about playing a showtune in the background and having people kinda talk over it in a cartoon character voice, then Seth is your guy. Where Trey is actually a musician and songwriter, capable of producing a volume of music for an entire show.

      1. See South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut for further proof of this.

        1. If you dropped the book and the wide-gap smile, that could be one of your boys in the picture.


            1. Hah – well played. I have a similar avatar on some forums I post on…

              1. Heh. I had an Armitage Shanks (English garage rock) shirt with that classic black and white checker pattern. It had “Two Ton Army” written on the front it, with a picture of their obese lead singer. Funny stuff.

    2. Canibal! The Musical was years ago. Was going to be tough for Seth to beat it.

    3. That’s the difference between a talented writers/musicians and a hack comedy writer.

  6. Wish I could see it, big fan of the show, hope it runs long enough that I can get a chance later in the year.

    1. Don’t they record stage acts and sell DVDs by now?

      Errr….I mean, that’s a stupid idea and nobody should even think about starting a business that does just that.

      1. Speaking as a Broadway fan: no, they don’t, or at least not consistently. Some shows are on DVD, including productions of most of Stephen Sondheim’s works, but it’s not standard practice.

        Of course, that’s only referring to commercial, professional releases. There are bootleg videos of virtually everything.

  7. why do they even pay you, mr. loder? lousy review.

    1. Well… I thought it was a good review. It told me about the plot, the main characters, a few of the jokes (without giving away too much), and the general spirit of the musical. I imagine most people who read it will be able to make an informed decision about whether it is worth their time.
      Where did he fall short?

  8. It’s not really a surprise that they would find some merit in religion despite finding it false.

    Anyone who has seen the Mormon episode on South Park knows that their point of view is “Yes, Mormonism is ridiculous, but these Mormons are really nice to their neighbors, so who cares how stupid their religion is?”

    And I’m not surprised at the highly positive review here overall. Bigger, Longer and Uncut is the best movie musical in the last 30 years, so naturally they were able to pull off a Broadway musical, too.

    1. That was the most interesting element of that episode–they took a character of the Mormon kid, whose religion they mocked throughout the entire show, and actually made him a sympathetic figure instead of a lazy, grotesque caricature.

      1. i;ve seen two interviews with them and they are very positive towards mormons. having grown up in colorado they had friends who were mormon and were reasonably familiar with the whole thang from an early age. that is their viewpoint – the mormon stories are silly, but a faith built around silly stories can still be a positive influence in people’s lives. they also said they’d rather have mormon neighbors than many other people they have met.

    2. I always liked that episode where everyone’s sitting around in hell wondering how they got there, and then some minion announces, “We’re sorry. The correct choice was Mormon… Mormon.”

  9. Book of Mormon is a great musical, and really is kind of sweet while showing some real truths about religion.

    The only bad news is that, unlike with the South Park movie, the level of irreverence+songs is understood beforehand.

    So there is no “UncleFucka” moment, no big surprise that bowls one over.

    I never laughed harder at a movie than I did during “UncleFucka”, but I never laughed harder at a musical than “Book Of Mormon”.

    1. Shorter after the movie, I found myself singing Uncle Fucka at work.

      Catchy tunes shouldnt have NSFW lyrics.

      1. Also, the fact that Blame Canada got a Grammy nomination instead of Uncle Fucka shows that the grammy committee/academy/whatever is a bunch of pussies.

  10. Fearless writing ? I stand to be corrected but Mormons not known to do anything other than writing an angry letter to those that insult them ? What next are these courageous champions of free speech going after next: The evils of amoral Amish quilt weaving or perhaps the bastard Bhuddist monks and their intolerable skin head looks.

    1. Fearless is the word. In the play, a couple of laugh lines involve a despicable act not even a Hit & Run commenter would endorse. Then there’s the bestiality, clitorodectomies, and dysentary all in good fun.

      For a Broadway musical, it doesn’t get much more fearless.

      1. Fearless implies that there is something real to fear, angry letters are not feared by the theater, probably have not been feared for the last 500 years.

        I do not know how conservative Broadway is, but it sounds like this review is written in 1835. I have seen shows where people shit on each other.

        1. I have seen shows where people shit on each other.

          Oh. So you go in for the highbrow stuff. Well – la di fricking dah.

        2. Who said letters?

          I’m talking cold hard cash. Broadway shows are risky and expensive, and the writing itself may doom the show to be a money-loser.

          That, NotSure, is fearless.


            1. Reason should crank a Thousand Faces of Divine Camel Herding issue.

              With the whole Aisha thing, would a illustrated Koran be kiddie pr0n? You’d even be all cool about it and blur Big M’s face out. Maybe even his whole body. Just leaving the kid Aisha. Call it Muhammad’s (PBUM!) Night Journey 2.0.

              That would still follow the ‘rules,’ right? Har.

      2. WRONG. Fearless would be doing the opposite, knowing very few of our jaded population would come, but doing it anyways. The very fact none of this would shock anyone under 100 yrs. old is enough to tell you that. And,really, fucka is funny?

      1. “Yeah, it’s been over a hundred and fifty years since a Mormon leader ordered any of his enemies murdered.”

        That we know of.

    2. Yeah, I agree NotSure. This on Broadway in the 50’s would be fearless. Making fun of religion and having vulgar characters is pretty much standard fare on Broadway today. Taking a conservative stance in a Broadway play on any issue (Global Warming, Illegal Immigration, Gay Marriage), now that would be fearless. I always love how playing to a lefty demographic is always couragous or irreverent. Oh yeah, it’s very couragous for an actor to go on the Daily Show and make Bush/palin jokes. How brave they all are. I’m sure this play is hilarious and I know Matt and Trey will go after anyone or anything including the left, but calling this subject matter for a Broadway play “fearless” is a joke.

      1. I bet it makes more money than Bono and that uber-tired superhero shtick. Allah forbid that someone produce something thought provoking on Broadway.

      2. It’s probably subversive as all hell, if I have to guess. From the review, it sounds actually somewhat sympathetic to Mormons personally, which probably makes the cultural “elites'” heads explode. Kinda like the South Park Nascar episode. Matt Stone and Trey Parker are the only American satirists alive that are worth a damn.

      3. Taking a conservative stance in a Broadway play on any issue (Global Warming, Illegal Immigration, Gay Marriage), now that would be fearless.

        Except, given their stand on religion it would also be disingenuous as hell.

        1. I wasn’t saying they should. Just pointing out what actually would be fearless on broadway.

  11. They made fun of the prohibition against drawing Mohammad, until Comedy Central stabbed them in the back.

    They made fun of Scientology in an absolutely brutal fashion, and the Scientologists are pretty aggressive about harassing / suing / occasionally murdering their critics.

  12. And, once again, their general attitude about Mormonism is that its founding story is absolutely absurd and you’d have to be a gullible idiot to buy it [which is not really disputable] but that Mormons are pretty nice people and that no one should give them too much shit about being Joseph Smith’s marks and chumps.

  13. If the missionaries don’t wind up in a pot, it’s not authentic.

    1. Up against the wall you goddam missionaries and your pot!

  14. Mormons live on average 7 years longer than the average person – (I think we should mock them for that.)

    And they have higher than average education levels – that’s pretty funny.

    And they have significantly lower rates of STD’s, cancers, and drunk driving arrests. That’s hilarious.

    Which state has the lowest drunk driving rate? Utah.

    Which state has the lowest out of wedlock birth rates? Utah

    Which state was ranked at the best managed state in the US? Utah

    These Mormons are fools for sure.

    1. Jean|3.23.11 @ 8:07PM|#
      “Cherry-picked data about Mormons”

      That’s pretty funny.

      1. it’s not cherry picked. when it comes to pretty much any social pathology (unless one defines social pathology as wearing ties with shortsleeve shirts w.o a hint of irony, or eating jello with every meal), mormons pretty much kick butt. they have low crime rates, incarceration rates too. the reasons are pretty similar to why japanese americans tend to do so well. sowell makes some good points in Ethnic America on why that is so. t

        1. dunphy|3.24.11 @ 6:37PM|#
          “it’s not cherry picked…”

          Yes it is. Notice the change from “Mormon” to “Utah” when the data for the first cite compares LDS bleevers to Utah residents, while the later presumes “Mormons” to be “residents of Utah”.
          Cheap and sleazy.

    2. Did you even read the article? Jesus, you touchy fucks are stupid.

      1. Read the whole article, twice. Charming personality you have, there.

        1. Holy shit, I found some golden tablets in my back yard. I’ll just use my magic seeing stones to translate them…hold on…

          Lo, and it came to pass that some twatwaffle became exceeding butthurt. For behold, she had missed the point entirely. And it came to pass that she was tiresome.


        2. Jean|3.23.11 @ 8:54PM|#
          “Charming personality you have, there.”

          Prefer honest responses to ‘charm’, but I’m not a Mormon.

          1. He’s a mother-fucker

      2. What state pays the most for porn? Utah.

        1. What state has the ugliest fucking people? Utah.

    3. Read what Fluffy wrote again.

      Fluffy|3.23.11 @ 7:16PM|#|show direct|ignore
      And, once again, their general attitude about Mormonism is that its founding story is absolutely absurd and you’d have to be a gullible idiot to buy it [which is not really disputable] but that Mormons are pretty nice people and that no one should give them too much shit about being Joseph Smith’s marks and chumps.

    4. All that is nice and all but their beliefs are absolutely hilarious. The Book of Mormon is a goldmine of unintentional hilarity. Give it a read.

    5. which state has a higher than average use of antidepressants? utah

    6. Which state is the most boring in the US? Utah

    7. Which state was ranked at the best managed state in the US? Utah

      Yeah, but not every year, and not by all sources. BUZZZ! Thanks for being on the show, and enjoy your year’s supply of Santorum.

  15. I find it amusing that the real General Butt Naked is now an evangelist.

  16. Like most subjects, any discussion of The Book of Mormon is greatly improved by reading Mark Twain’s chapter on it.

    The book seems to be merely a prosy detail of imaginary history, with the Old Testament for a model; followed by a tedious plagiarism of the New Testament. The author labored to give his words and phrases the quaint, old-fashioned sound and structure of our King James’s translation of the Scriptures; and the result is a mongrel?half modern glibness, and half ancient simplicity and gravity. The latter is awkward and constrained; the former natural, but grotesque by the contrast. Whenever he found his speech growing too modern?which was about every sentence or two?he ladled in a few such Scriptural phrases as “exceeding sore,” “and it came to pass,” etc., and made things satisfactory again. “And it came to pass” was his pet. If he had left that out, his Bible would have been only a pamphlet.

  17. Along with all races and peoples he is receiving here what he merits as a result of the long pre-mortal probation in the presence of the Lord….The negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned, particularly the priesthood and the temple blessings that flow therefrom, but this inequality is not of man’s origin. It is the Lord’s doing.-Bruce McConkie, member of the LDS leadership council the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in Mormon Doctrine (1966)

    1. Have they somehow gotten to the 21st century since then or are they still stuck?

      1. They changed the eligibility rules for the priesthood in the late 70’s to allow minorities. Women are still not eligible.

  18. As one commenter apparently knows, but most have probably missed, General Butt Naked is a real person, and yes, he is an evangelical preacher in Africa.

    1. You’ve watched the Vice Guide to Liberia, right? Butt seems like a perfectly nice fellow for a mass murderer.

      1. I think that’s all cover until the wars start up again. I never got the impression that he was truly repentant for his murders, but he had to find some way to avoid getting killed. So, “Jesus! I found Jesus! You can’t kill Butt Naked now!”

        When the truce ends, you’ll find him drinking the blood of children and running full monty into battle once again.

        The Vice Guide to Liberia is riveting stuff, though.

  19. I sometimes deplore the way some people must mock the deeply held beliefs of others.

    But then I reflect on those beliefs and have a good belly laugh.

  20. Kurt shouldn’t be so surprised that Parker and Stone treat Mormonism with respect. They’ve never been assholes just out to criticize and mock people. They’ve always given fair, objective assessments of religions that they clearly believe are bogus.

    1. the comment that struck me about religion (and i am paraphrasing from memory) was when asked about religion and why they lean towards theism not atheism is that the only thing more ridiculous than believing we are here because of some sky god with a beard etc. etc. is believing we are here “just because some stuff happened ” . iow, they find the minutae (sp?) and creation myths etc. of religions to be ridiculous but find the idea of atheism to also be ridiculous.

  21. Anyone else here seen Cannibal! The Musical by Trey Parker? It was also hilarious. Have a schpedoinkle day!

    1. seen it. it was ok. orgazmo is better than cannibal!

  22. Oh man, I hope this show comes to my area.

    Anyone here see Orgasmo?

    1. seen it. “you better make me cum or i’m gonna kick your butt”

  23. But is it a better take on the Book of Mormon than BSG?

  24. Mormons are full of shit.

  25. Wow. Amazing how mocking the religious beliefs of Mormons is okay on the Broadway stage. I wonder what the reaction would be to this show if it was titled “The Qu’ran” or “The Torah” and made fun of the sacred books of scripture of the Muslims or Jews? Say what you want about the writers ‘thoughfulness’, this is nothing but another savage attack on a religious minority. Bravo.

    1. you be one dense bitch.

      1. Oh good. I see the highschool dropout crowd has started reading Reason magazine, maybe that’s a step in the right direction. How about addressing what I said about attacking religious minorities, genious?

  26. once again it is easy to belittle a minority – such people disgust me

  27. As a libertarian, I was excited when I found It provided well thought out analyses of today’s issues from a libertarian point of view, something that is difficult to come across amid traditional media outlets.

    As a Mormon, I’m fine with people not sharing the same beliefs that I do, that doesn’t bother me in the least and I make it a point to be respectful of others’ religious views, whether they be Evangelical Christian, Catholic, Jehovah Witness, Scientologist, Islamic, Jewish, Agnostic, Wicken, Aethiest, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.

    I feel that discourse about each other’s beliefs is beneficial to help us understand one another and to help us determine our own thoughts on a given subject (a la the marketplace of ideas).

    I do, however, take issue with disparaging others’ religious views, regardless of how ridiculous they may sound to an individual. Religion is a sacred subject for many, and disparaging that subject disparages the individuals who hold it sacred.

    While engaging in such speech should be protected by the 1st Ammendment, that protection does not substantiate the practice as beneficial to either those who engage in it or those who hear it. In fact, I think that such tactics harm our society by discouraging true empathetic discourse, a practice that appears to be on the way out these days. This lack of discourse hinders the marketplace of ideas by placing a barrier to entry into that marketplace, and that is the fear of mean spirited mockery and derision.

    It saddens me that the editors of failed to realize that endorsing such speech hinders their effort to allow the marketplace of ideas to operate.

    Reading the article, and especially reading the comments, it is clear that my views and opinions are not welcome in the marketplace of ideas as it resides on By welcome, I mean given an environment to be discussed and critiqued respectfully, so I will seek out another marketplace. Not a marketplace where I agree with everything that is presented, or one that agrees with everything I present, but one where ideas and opinions can be expressed without fear of derision.

  28. “How about addressing what I said about attacking religious minorities?”

    Hear! Hear!

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  31. Joshua Milton Blahyi (born September 30, 1971), better known by his nom de guerre General Butt Naked, is a former leader for the Liberian warlord Roosevelt Johnson[1] in the First Liberian Civil War none for his fierce, violent and eccentric measures in the first half of the 1990s. He was originally a tribal priest, and has returned to preaching after the war.

  32. This is gonna be a blast. It always a fun time in anything that involves the creators of South Park. I have to argue though that if this could get a movie then Big Love can get a season twol

  33. This movie has some nike sb skunk dunks for sale of the same flaws I saw in another attempt at a faithful adaptation of a work of fantastic literature long thought unfilmable, Zach Snyder’s 2009 version of Watchmen…That is, it kobe 7 for sale struck me as a series of filmed recreations of scenes from the famous novel

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