How Rebates Have the Texas Film Industry Playing Catch Up To its Neighbors

How Rebates Have the Texas Film Industry Playing Catch Up To its Neighbors

Screens: See if you can spot the common thread that is pulling at the seams of the Texas film industry. On NBC’s The Night Shift, a stock-written staff... By Matt Stieb 8/27/2014
Beaches Be Trippin\': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Beaches Be Trippin': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Arts & Culture: Let’s face it, most of us Lone Stars view the Texas coast as a poor man’s Waikiki. Hell, maybe just a poor man’s Panama Beach — only to be used... By Callie Enlow 7/10/2013
Best Sushi

Best Sushi

Best of SA 2013: 4/24/2013

Best Public Swimming Pool

Best of 2013: 4/24/2013
Watered-down Mad Decent Block Party hits WhiteWater Amphitheater

Watered-down Mad Decent Block Party hits WhiteWater Amphitheater

Music: Deep into his brilliant six-part essay “How Hip-hop Failed Black America,” Roots maestro Ahmir Khalib “Questlove” Thompson dropped... By Matt Stieb 8/27/2014

Search hundreds of restaurants in our database.

Search hundreds of clubs in our database.

Follow us on Instagram @sacurrent

Print Email

Arts & Culture


‘The Book of Mormon’: A heaven-sent satire

Photo: Courtesy Photos, License: N/A

Courtesy Photos

Mark Evans leads a merry band of Elders

Photo: , License: N/A

Christopher John O’Neill tells it like it ain’t

“You’ve seen the play … now read the book. ” So chirps an advertisement for Mormonism in—of all places—the Playbill for The Book of Mormon, the gleeful satire now playing for a two-week stint at the Majestic downtown. But what the ad gets wrong—disastrously—is that The Book of Mormon isn’t a play at all, but a deliriously overblown musical, which is exactly what makes its satire of Mormonism so effective: the only way, it seems, to expose the over-the-top lunacy of American religiosity is with some over-the-top American tap dancing! And over-the-top jazz hands! And over-the-top sequins! 

And so South Park scribes Trey Parker and Matt Stone join forces with Robert Lopez (of Avenue Q fame) in crafting the musical comedy equivalent of an H-bomb—or, rather, given the amount of profanity in the show, an F-bomb. The story begins with two young Mormons—Elders Price and Cunningham—as they prepare to receive their missions; Price—a narcissist winningly played by Mark Evans—dreams of proselytizing in the promised land of Orlando, while Cunningham, a pathological liar, seeks to repair the damage caused in his adolescence. But instead of shimmying to Florida, this improbable duo sashays, twirls and gyrates to and through Uganda, as they attempt to save a destitute village from the machinations of a local warlord. It’s a nail-biting premise: can these crooning soldiers of the Angel Moroni actually prevail over the decidedly non-musical horrors of dysentery, bullets and clitoral mutilation?

But the goofiness of the plot is really beside the point. The larger thesis is that Price and Cunningham—indeed, all Mormons—draw their strength from a truly bizarre religious narrative, in which the brooks of Eden babble somewhere in Missouri, and God changes His mind about racial prejudice in 1978. What makes the musical fly is that the sunny optimism of Mormonism finds a perfect counterpart in glorious Broadway dance: “Turn It Off”—a high-octane and quick-stepping tribute to psychological repression—is ironic, sly and devastating all at once. Yet there’s also a remarkable—and equally American—sweetness to the show. When a villager (terrifically sung by Samantha Marie Ware) muses about an escape from Uganda, she contemplates a utopia only vaguely sketched in the African imagination: the fabled American paradise of … Salt Lake City, where nothing bad could ever happen. 

The musical falters once, in the second act, with its chaotic production number “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream,” a hallucinogenic mishmash of modern horrors that seems less inspired by the LDS than LSD. (It also re-treads some of Parker and Stone’s earlier work; after all, the authors had already combined Satan and sodomy to fine effect in their film South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. Plus, the descent to Hell in the British musical Jerry Springer: The Opera is sharper and more pointed, particularly in its depiction of Lucifer’s barbed-wire anal fetish. (And I thank the Current for allowing this brief survey of infernal ass-fucking in Western dramatic art. We now return to the Alamo City.) 

Recently in Arts & Culture
We welcome user discussion on our site, under the following guidelines:

To comment you must first create a profile and sign-in with a verified DISQUS account or social network ID. Sign up here.

Comments in violation of the rules will be denied, and repeat violators will be banned. Please help police the community by flagging offensive comments for our moderators to review. By posting a comment, you agree to our full terms and conditions. Click here to read terms and conditions.
comments powered by Disqus