A couple of weekends ago I was fortunate enough to be one of the first people to see The Book of Mormon off Broadway as it began its tour in Denver, a homecoming of sorts for creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker of South Park fame.
To make it a true South Park experience, my wife and I dined at Casa Bonita, the Mexican restaurant that’s more like a Disney attraction with its long lines and cliff-diving performances. Long after an episode in which Eric Cartman tricked his way into a trip to the restaurant, I thought it was make-believe — but it’s real, all right.
For Arizona residents, it’s a bit like Pancho’s without the buffet and with food that’s even more like a TV dinner, but it does have the “raise the flag” service and of course the fun floor show.
But back to the play…
Packed with hot-and-cold-running pop-culture references, and more profanity than even some South Park fans are comfortable with, The Book of Mormon is definitely an evolution of 1999’s South Park; Bigger, Longer & Uncut, the feature film that took Parker and Stone’s animated characters to the big screen and new heights of beautiful blasphemy and at the same time garnered acclaim for being a tighter musical than many modern Tony winners. In The Book of Mormon you can really see the DNA of that movie and South Park’s infamous “All About Mormons” episode, as if they “manned up all over” the play, to borrow one of its lyrics.
I had prepared for the experience by listening to the Broadway cast album — sure, the plot was spoiled for me, but I’m glad I did, because there’s a lot going on and precious little time in the theater to take it all in. It’s not all dirty words and offensive stereotypes — OK, it sort of is, but there’s a real story too, one that resonates with modern audiences looking for their role in making a difference in the world, whatever their missionary position.