REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

The Book of Mormon

Book, Music & Lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez & Matt StoneChicago production

Directed & Choreographed by Casey Nicholaw

Produced by Broadway In Chicago

At the Bank of America Theatre

Crude and crass spoof of Mormons a light weight  musical

I must confess that I hate the TV show “South Park,” so I was hoping that The Book of Mormon would be better. It was not. But, since the musical is a critic-proof show (that most critics raved), my comments are irrelevant. The show is a hit on Broadway; it has won many Tony’s; and it has been sold out everywhere it has played. It has had an amazing pre-sale here in Chicago. If you like “South Park,” you’ll love The Book of Mormon. If you laugh at the TV show, you’ll have a laugh fest with Mormon. If you  enjoy, fluffy yet crude satire, then Mormon is your show. So, as a consumer advocate, I must report that the opening night audience laughed throughout, I did not. If you’re compelled to see The Book of Mormon, best you order tickets now since the show is white-hot! So, I guess I’m telling you that most theatre patrons will like, even admire The Book of Mormon, therefore, don’t be left out. It is a show that must be seen to either enjoy it or to conclude that it is the most disappointing, over hyped show in years. So see it and judge for yourself. I’m glad I saw the show. No serious theatre patron can avoid experiencing such a popular show.

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Having said all the above, let me critique The Book of Mormon from a traditional lover of classical Broadway musicals point of view. The Book of Mormon is a light weight, low-brow musical that is irreverent but not biting nor satirical enough. Ii played too safe in its parody and mock of Mormons. It is too silly and too foul-mouthed; singing cuss words aren’t funny, especially when the F-word is constantly repeated. The songs sound like TV jingles or improv tunes despite the slick arrangements and too smooth choreography. The music has a college production feel.

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The slily plot that finds two 19 year old Mormons on their obligatory conversion mission to Uganda, is filed with too easy attacks on Africans, the Mormon beliefs and the nerdy stereotype of young Mormons complete with black pants, whit shirts and black ties. This cheeky show  has the Mormons all smiley-faced in a cartoonish mode.  After the cute, opening number – “Hello” that depicts the Mormon house-to-house missionary campaign, the show continues with cutesy jingle0infested unmemorable tunes.

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After a poke at Africans, there is the expected gay song “Turn It Off” that finds one of the Mormons desperately trying to not be gay. The arrogantly vain Elder Price (Nic Rouleau) and his companion, Elder Cunningham (the funny Ben Platt) trying to bond-actually Cunningham, the misfit, tries too hard to blend with Price.

There is the young African girl, Nabulungi (Syesha Mercado) who eyes Cunningham and screams and wales her songs. Act one ends with an uptempo, yet  bland “Man Up” that finds Cunningham gathering the guts to tackle converting the heathens. This one-joke show (Mormons are naive geeks) permeates every scene.

Act Two  accelerates the goofiness as Cunningham uses lies to explain Mormon  religious doctrine while Price has his moment of doubt in the Hell showstopper number.  But he emerges saved in his anthem”I Believe.” There are several parodies of classical Broadway shows here including a parody of the Uncle Thomas’ Cabin from the King and I. That didn’t work at all.

As the shows drone an, the one-joke reference continues as I waited for more biting attacks but the writers played it safe as they didn’t have guts enough to attack other religions like Islam. It is safe to mock Mormons, I guess? Too bad there are no memorable songs in this fluffy, light-weight musical comedy. I’m not a fan of crude, tasteless humor and easy, playful satire. The Book of Mormon is a funny, crassly commercial affair; art it is not. Where is Mel Brooks when he is needed?

Just get to see The Book of Mormon to decide for yourself if I’m right or not. I’m betting I’m the lone wolf  here.


Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: December 19, 2012

Fro more info checkout The Book of Mormon page at

At the Bank of America Theatre, 18 W.Monroe, Chicago, IL

8 thoughts on “The Book of Mormon

  • katyj

    I am wondering if we were at the same show. This show was irreverent and crass but it has a heart of gold. The songs are amazing and the cast is fantastic.

    I’m thinking you need to get another job. It feels like you wrote your review just to draw attention to yourself.

  • I always amazed that people like you have no toleration for anyone who holds opinions other than theirs? I mentioned that I am probably the “lone wolf” in disliking the show. To say that I liked it would be a lie.

  • isnorkel

    Just returned from seeing Book of Mormon.

    Being a seasoned theater patron, I was eager to see the play. Although there were some funny parts, overall, I thought it a tasteless, disrespectful, crass show. And more than anything, it didn’t depict Mormon missionaries accurately. Many untruths about the faith were portrayed. I wonder how a similar show about Catholics or Jews would be accepted? I so agree with your comment about Islam being attacked in the same way.

  • Gary Smith

    Having been a Mormon Stake Missionary for 12 years and having had three sons serve honorable missions in several countries in the world, it was shameful and sickening to see the good deeds and sacrifice that young Mormon Missionaries perform slandered and made fun of using foul language and false information about the LDS Church! Not to mention the depiction of Christ calling a Missionary foul names. If this kind of musical were made about Muslims, there would be blood in the streets! In this terrible play, not only is a the Church made fun of but God is also mocked. The Bible tells us that God will not be mocked. This is another example of the disrespect and hatred of good people who are patriotic Americans and shows the low level to which this country has sunk . I finally had enough and walked out of the auditorium.

  • My problem with the musical isn’t in its depiction of the Mormon religion (I think nit is a cult like Scientology) but that it is vulgar and not satirical enough.

  • Regretfully, I too saw Mormon and thought it was way overhyped. I really was not prepared to hear that type of language used on stage. I did not think it was funny. In fact, I thought it was disturbing. I almost left during the intermission, but when I remembered I paid 250.oo for my seat – I stayed. It only got worse after the intermission. I was beginning to think that I am the only one that did not enjoy the show. I’m glad I am not alone. I asked an elderly couple what they thought of the show as I was leaving. They stated that they thought it was good. People behind me laughed like wild amimals during the show. I’m not religious, so I really don’t care about if the Mormons were portrayed accurately. That’s not the point of the show. What is disturbing to me is when the truths that are everyday occurances in Uganda are paraded on stage for laughs, it is disturbing, I also don’t happen to think the horrific acts of Dalmer or Hitler are particularly funny. I am shocked that theatre critics have awarded this show so many awards. It almost seems as though the creators paid everyone for those accolades, they are clearly not warranted. This show is in poor taste, and very low class. I go to alot of shows each year. I consider myself a huge supporter of the arts. I don’t understand the whole point of the show. maybe someone can explain it me? I did notice that the other patrons were not your typical theatre goers. I could smell the reek of marijuana being smoked somewhere in the theater during intermission. At my age, I really don’t care about what’s cool or current now. I go to the theater to be uplifted not more depressed. Maybe if you drink heavily (like some of those seating around me) the show is great. I suppose it would dull the lame songs that one never hears again. If the creators of this show ever have another hit that is the best this century, remind me to send a few thousand dollars to my favorite charity. I did think the fuys in the cast were great. i just wish they would not waste their talent on this show. I do know the total show is a joke. To me it was just not funny.

  • I agree with you – thanks for the comments

  • You’re not the lone wolf, though you are in the minority. Depending on the situation, crass and tasteless humor can be appropriate. But in an overhyped Broadway show, it is a lot of forced humor that has been shoved up like Elder Price’s Bible and smothered around you. I can find South Park humorous at times, and at other times annoying. That is exactly what how I felt about BoM. By the end of the show, I had enough of maggots on the scrotum. It lost its initial shock value and was no longer funny to me. On the bright side, I enjoyed the music and the acting. I wonder if it were written without the crassness, if it would still be a more commercial success. Probably not. Because that’s what everyone who knows what s/he’s getting into paid to see.

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