Sunday, June 09, 2013

Ma ha nei bu, Eebowai!!!

This past Wednesday I made a trip to London to see God's favorite musical with the post-Mormons of Switzerland!!

I had an absolutely fantastic time!!  This was actually the first time I've ever seen a real Broadway musical (not counting movie versions or amateur (school/church) productions).  And I'm so happy this one was my first. ;)

Ever since I first heard the score of The Book of Mormon, it has been my #1 favorite musical.  This, despite the fact that I hadn't seen the show until this past week -- but the music alone is sufficient!!

Since I already had the score memorized, there weren't too many surprises, but there were a few good ones.  With effort, I managed to restrain myself from singing along, but I couldn't help occasionally whispering to my friend "Oh, this next part is great!"

It seems like every time I read something about this musical from believing Mormons, they have to talk about the errors in the portrait of Mormonism (with the implication that the writers are simply ignorant of Mormonism).  One of my pet peeves about Mormonism is the attitude that no one except a faithful member of the CoJCoL-dS is qualified to speak about Mormonism.  Thus, if the musical makes it look like the Missionary Training Center is in Salt Lake City (when it's really in Provo, nearly an hour's drive from there!) it reinforces the belief that the writers must not know what they're talking about.

The key example is that (in the musical) the missionaries get assigned to their mission locations and companions while they're at the MTC -- when in reality, missionaries learn their mission location before entering the MTC and they are assigned a series of different companions throughout their mission.  But the thing is that the missionaries commit to spend a year-and-a-half to two years in a faraway place without knowing in advance where it will be, and they have to stay with a companion 24/7 for months without having any say over who that person will be.  And there is very strong social pressure not to be disappointed with your assignments -- though many people are disappointed (as Elder Price was in the play) -- and some manage to "turn it off," and convince themselves to love their call.  This is a specifically Mormon scenario, but to tell that story in a musical, they needed to use a little artistic license on the logistics in order to allow the Elders to do a song-and-dance together about it.

The whole play is like that.  There are some details that are wrong (though very few are gratuitously wrong), but that is nothing compared to the Mormon points (from little details to profound themes) that they got right.  I discussed a lot of these points in my earlier post on insights from the Book of Mormon, as well as in the Holly's Brodie-Award-Winning piece BOM: The Most Correct of Any Musical?  If you would like a carefully-detailed list of the accuracies and inaccuracies of the musical, see this post by Dad's Primal Scream.

Overall, I feel like this musical really succeeds at achieving universality by rendering with great fidelity a specific milieu (which I feel is something good for art to do, as I've often said).  It's a tale that wouldn't take place outside of Mormonism, yet anyone can understand the various characters' motivations and relate to their interpersonal dynamics.

I have to admit that my own Mormon connection is a big part of my love for this play.  Without it, I'm sure I would like the musical, but the fact that Mormonism has been such a big part of my life makes me want to jump up and say "Yes!!" when watching or listening to it -- and it makes me happy that such a brilliant piece was written about something that I have such a personal connection with.  The songs are loads of fun, and they mean something to me.

"We are still Latter-day Saints -- all of us.  Even if we changed some things, or break the rules, or have complete doubt that God exists.  We can still work together to make this our paradise planet."


postmormongirl said...

Spot-on! I am quite jealous - I have been wanting to see the musical for a long time now. I also find it quite eerie how many things the musical gets right - and to be honest, those are the things about Mormonism that I don't always want to admit to.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey PMG!!!

OK, now I'm curious. Was there something in particular in the musical that made you cringe?

Donna Banta said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it. I think Matt Stone and
Trey Parker were amazingly familiar with their subject, taking artistic license only when they needed to make the plot smoother--like the location of the MTC, the assignment of companions, and the assumption that missionaries are assigned one companion for the duration. It's a great show.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hi Donna!!!

I agree.

I was actually surprised by how spot-on it was, from small details to large themes. I'm actually very tempted to do my own discussion of how much was right and wrong -- I think there's a lot more to say about it in addition to what Dad's Primal Scream wrote.