- (Photo: Reuters / Gary Hershorn)
For the first time since opening nearly a year ago, the musical "The Book of Mormon" topped Broadway box office ticket sales last weekend. It beat out the big players, "Wicked" and "The Lion King," musicals that usually lead box office sales. "The Book of Mormon" grossed $1,455,329, whereas "Wicked" grossed $1,349,433, and "The Lion King" brought in only $1,226,681.
But the popularity of "The Book of Mormon" does not mean there is a rise in popularity, or even interest, in the Mormon religion. The musical is a comedy that takes a satirical look at Mormonism. To get an impression of the style of comedy, one merely needs to note that the musical's creation was a collaboration between Trey Parker and Matt Stone (the inventers of the Comedy Central show "South Park") as well as the composer of the musical "Avenue Q."
"South Park" is known for crude and graphic humor that pushes the boundaries of what is allowed on cable television. And "Avenue Q" contrasts Jim Henson style puppets with adult themes. Both rely on shock value humor, and "The Book of Mormon" is no different.
"The Book of Mormon" tells the story of two young Mormon missionaries who are sent to Uganda to spread their beliefs. Here, these extremely innocent and sheltered young men must face rather unsettling human suffering. While it doesn't quite sound like a recipe for comedy, the musical keeps it light with upbeat songs, and harps on the idea of the young men's naiveté.
"The Book of Mormon" is quite vulgar and curse words are used liberally.
However, the Mormon Church itself has responded to the musical good-naturedly. When it opened, the church issued the following statement, with a link to the actual Book of Mormon: "The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people's live forever by bringing them closer to Christ."