The Book of Mormon
Tony Award-winning musical The Book of Mormon came to Pittsburgh's Heinz Hall. Sharing creators with the popular show South Park, the musical does not shy away from crude humor that takes merciless stabs at organized religion and offensive stereotypes all around.
Even as someone who grew up Catholic and thinks that South Park is tasteless tongue-in-cheek humor at best, I find The Book of Mormon absolutely hilarious.
The Book of Mormon tells the story of cocky Elder Kevin Price and compulsive liar Elder Arnold Cunningham. Together, they are sent to evangelize Uganda: a stark contrast from Price's coveted Orlando, Florida. They encounter a village that is suffering from poverty, AIDS, and oppression from a neighboring warlord (led by a man whose name is redacted to keep the paper PG-rated). Price's pride and misleading faith comes to bite him when he realizes that saying and doing the right things doesn't necessarily warrant God sending out rewards. Cunningham's tendency to be "making things up again" initially hooks the Ugandan people into the Church of Latter-Day Saints by merging what little he knows of the Book of Mormon with whatever assuages the Ugandan people's anxieties as well as random pop culture references from franchises such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. In the end, the village and the Elders realize that they don't need to go to Salt Lake City to seek paradise: they could build their paradise where they were.
Often, satire can come off as needlessly boorish, but this musical wasn't the case. Was it politically correct? Absolutely not. Had I been introduced to this musical when I was much more religious, I would have been horribly offended (for God's sake, one of the songs, "Hasa Diga Eebowai" translates to "Fuck You, God"). However, the musical has an incredibly important moral of love and "making our own paradise" instead of just wishing for a paradise in Salt Lake City (or, as Nabulungi would call it, "Sal Tlay Ka Siti"). Regardless of faith, I think it's safe to say that that is an important moral that any of us can take away and put into practice.
This was the second musical I have seen at Heinz Hall (the first being Fun Home, during which I sobbed like a baby at the end). Although I had no doubt that the production would be great, I was still blown away. It had all the stereotypes about musicals: catchy show tunes, sequins, flashy dancing (except in the case of The Book of Mormon, it was flashy in more ways than one). The energy was unreal, and the cast did not fail to elicit eruptions of laughter throughout. The choreography was like seeing characters bouncing around in a cartoon. The vocals were also incredibly strong, the audience cheering for the beautiful ear-piercing solos.
After the performance, there were quite a few Mormons trying to convert viewers to the church. It was hard to tell which boys in white collared shirts and ties were actual Mormons trying to evangelize and who were enthusiastic fans of the musical. As someone who also practices Christianity (and was raised in the South), bless their hearts.