The cast has been universally praised and the musical numbers appropriately lauded. Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone are being congratulated for accomplishing the impossible: writing a religious satire that is at once outrageous and faith promoting. Mormon temple, topped by a miniature statue of the Angel Moroni. Behind it is a drop painted in the fashion of a Mormon universe.
The curtain rises and a pin spot hits an actor portraying a stereotypic missionary practicing a door approach at the Mission Training Center.
He is soon joined by an entire district of model missionaries working to perfect their approach designed to interest suburban Americans in learning more about their church. At the conclusion of the song, a voice of authority assigns companions to missions.
When the odd couple arrive in Uganda, they are sent to a small outlying village where they encounter a man dragging a decaying horse carcass across the stage toward a communal pit where it will be roasted.
At least today the villagers will have something to eat. Elders Price and Cunningham are quickly introduced to their new district of discouraged missionaries; missionaries who never leave their living quarters because there is no use. The problems they face are nothing like those back home in suburban America and the villagers are disgusted with other Christian missionaries who stop by once a year to promise blessings that never materialize.
The Elders are paralyzed because they must follow their Handbook under any and all circumstances, the violation of which will bring down the judgment of Heavenly Father. Like a light switch, they merely click it off and put on their happy faces. Elder Price has a crisis of faith because he was always taught that if he did everything right all of his prayers would be answered.
That crisis of faith provides the motivation for their entire adventure. The Elders have no contacts, have taught no lessons, have no investigators and have never had a baptism. When the pair finally go out to tract, they are plunged into confusion at the first hut they approach. They were taught in the MTC that they must first ring the doorbell. After searching intently, they panic because the Handbook does not cover this situation. As Parker and Stone have stated in their many interviews, it actually is a loving satire of Mormons: people who believe the most amazing things, but who are happy and who spend their lives in service to others.
Members who write this off as anti-Mormon are missing the point. It is valuable to see ourselves through the eyes of observant others. In the end they learn the second important lesson: by breaking the rule, they throw off the plastic MTC-created logo-perfect patina of the official church sales representative and discover that true religion results when you do whatever is necessary to help those in need.
One thing that could be considered overboard are when the two missionaries prepare for bed, undressing down to their garments. They were wearing the old fashioned union suit style with the button front that hangs down over their knees. Fortunately no markings are visible. What a great story! It ends with the villagers saved from annihilation, starvation, deformation and that truly praises God for their deliverance. When the Mission President is appalled that the missionaries veered outside the bounds of the Handbook, he decides to send the entire district home.
They rebel and finish their missions helping the people they have grown to love. The other two things that could be considered overboard are when the two missionaries prepare for bed, undressing down to their garments. But here the writers find success where they previously failed. The Savior appears on stage speaking with a Western Utah accent.
The Nephites conflict with the Lamanites is used as a metaphor helping the villagers to understand that they can be blessed while their enemies are defeated. In the end the story praises the young Elders for their demonstration of Christian love. There was an added bonus for me. I served as director of the Hill Cumorah Pageant for 9 years and my wife, Gail, served as costume designer for 19 years.
For example, when the new version of the Cumorah Pageant opened in , Gordon B. Hinkley looked at the colorful Book of Mormon prophets in contrast to Joseph Smith who was properly dressed in a black cutaway.
The designers had done their research and I was both flattered and proud. What affect will this new musical have on the Church? Angels had won back-to-back Tony Awards for best play and a Pulitzer Prize. It was the must-see play on Broadway.
I was startled to discover that he had never even heard of it, even though it had been playing for years just a few blocks from his office. The fact is, New York theatres are intimate and only about , per year can see any given play. Outside of theatre lovers and a few tourists, hardly anyone knows what is happening on Broadway. But there is another unexpected benefit. This week there were four Broadway openings and two more Broadway shows that went into previews.
If the show becomes the hit it seems likely to become, there will be ads all over New York City, on bill boards, in the subways and on taxi cabs all over the city.