The Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, Tennessee is hosting the hit Broadway stage production of Book of Mormon and I had the pleasure of attending last Friday night. I went with my Broadway buddy and his daughter and her husband. The night started off on a hilarious note when my friend and his son-in-law decided to dress as Elders, complete with black ties and short-sleeved white shirts. All they needed was a couple of name tags and of course the renowned book in question. They also needed to be pushy, obnoxious and a little closed minded.
As soon as we get out of the car, I’m struck by the dazzling lights of the Orpheum marquee as I always am. We walk across the parking lot towards the entrance when we see young men in white short-sleeved shirts and black ties and these men do have the Book of Mormon in hand along with some literature that included business cards to direct you to the Ladder Day Saint website. When I willingly accepted the little card, I honestly thought that this was part of the show and that the young guys were actors hired to promote this event. Until I looked at the card and realized that these guys standing on the corner in front of our majestic Orpheum were in fact, Mormons. Now the funny thing about all of this is when one of the Missionaries made a comment to my friend’s daughter. “Nice blouse” he says to her as we walk by. She was wearing a nice blouse, one that was off the shoulder and that highlighted her stunning tattoos. Any young man in America would have to be blind not to notice her, but for a Mormon on a mission, it seemed like an out of place comment that only added to the humor of the night.
And, humor was definitely the theme for the night. I’ve never been into comedy very much as I honestly don’t find most of it funny. I never understood The Three Stooges or slapstick comedy and I have never laughed at Don Rickles or Rodney Dangerfield. Just never really got it. Never found their schticks even remotely humorous. For the most part, I’ve also stayed away from adult comedy humor and can remember one time going to a show in Tahoe and seeing Eddie Murphy do his adult stand up and I was disgusted. His obsession with bathroom humor just turned me off and though I’m not a prude, I felt like one while sitting through his routine. I’ve also been to quite a few Broadway plays now and I’ve enjoyed each one immensely, but I have to tell you this was my first comedic play and I wasn’t sure what I would think about it.
Can you say, laugh out loud?
Well, we sure did and it was an uproariously funny show that did it’s absolute best to offend everyone, make the ladies blush and had the Christians in the audience wondering if they were going to hell after laughing through this performance. It was fresh, smart and carried out all the offensive gags with just enough class, truth and candor to tickle just about everyone’s funny bone. There were some people offended but for the most part, the crowd loved the boisterous performances and the raunchy humor.
It kind of surprises me that Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone had the foresight to write this comedy that puts such a strong spot light on the Mormon religion. Oh, and it’s not just the usual spotlight, but one that absolutely screams out how ridiculous religion can be and yet at the same time, highlights how wonderful humans have the capacity to be. The Book of Mormon was most surprising not for it’s crude and in your face humor but for it’s very evident story line that life is about love and understanding and a desire to unite the human race into a race of true brotherhood that transcends so called religions and their dogma.
These creator’s of South Park hit the mark and then some with this so very human show. They gave us laughter without bitterness and brought humor to our human condition with intelligence, compassion and a good dose of self deprecating humor. One of the most interesting things of the night for me was watching some of the older, obviously more conservative theater patrons and their reactions to some of the more outrageous skits. An older couple were sitting right next to me and I was curious to watch their reactions, and it was funny to see them at first uncomfortable and embarrassed and then laughing so hard, they had to hide their faces in their hands. It was reassuring to see people like that be able to laugh at the absurdities of life.
The Book of Mormon shot to the top of my favorite Broadway shows and it might always stay at the top of my comedy list. It was an awesome production that left me feeling good with the underlying story-line that love will always persevere and that if we can’t laugh at ourselves, there is no point in anything we ever do.
Is the show for everyone? Absolutely not. It is definitely an adult show and I would hesitate to bring anyone under the age of 18. I also would probably refrain from bringing my uber religious friends that don’t have a really good sense of humor and an ability to laugh at themselves. But, for anyone else wanting to spend a night at the theater being tickled funny, this is definitely the show you’ve been waiting for. Oh, and don’t forget to go to that Mormon website and download their free book! You’ll see pretty quick how easy it was to write a satirical play about this particular religion. I doubt many Mormons will be flocking to see this one, but if any do dare to venture out, I challenge them not to laugh out loud.