The Book of Mormon: The Musical! The Soundtrack-Act 1

BoM:The Musical is now available on iTunes and Amazon.com.

“Hello! I would like to share this book about Jewish Naval Indians with you!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You lucky sons of bitches that get to see this performed on stage. I hope you know how lucky you are, because those of us outside of NYC that so desperately want to see the greatest musical ever written would quite possibly gut their beloved dogs taun taun-style if that’s what it takes to get a ticket. We have to be satisfied with just the soundtrack. Fortunately, this is such a well-written musical that we can see the high kicking Mormon missionaries in our imagination, and can pretend that we’re right there.

If ever there was a piece of theater written with me in mind, I have to believe this is the one. For any new folks not familiar with my bonafides, I’ll let you know that I was a devout Mormon from one of the original Utah [pioneer, polygamous] Mormon families, my cousin is one of the General Authorities (pretty sweet title, if you can get it), my father writes LDS hymns, and I helped the Texas Rangers bust the dirt bags that run the polygamous compound in Texas. I’ve also been writing a memoir about all of this and waffle on my feelings for the LDS church. Not gonna lie, this musical has given me a soft spot for my old religion again, something I never thought possible.

But you’re here to read about the most joyous song ever written about female circumcision, so let’s get to it, okay? Okay! I’m mostly going to catch you up on some of the inside info so you can get just how amazing the music and lyrics are.

 

Opening Number: Hello! “My Name is Elder Grant and I would like to share with you the most amazing book!”

When you get your mission call, you head to the MTC, the Missionary Training Center, in Provo, Utah. There you learn how to interact with the public in a gentle, endearing way all while wearing a short-sleeved dress shirt and a beatific grin. Most importantly, you learn how to show pictures in your hard-back binder in such a way so that when you close it, their eyes will follow the action up to your face, where you will look serenely back. But you gotta get through that door, first.

The music here is stellar, it’s so old school Rodgers and Hammerstein, but then you have the “Hope you enjoy hell!” line that is pure Matt and Trey. By the way, they are my ideal man. The two of them together. I have specific turn ons, what can I say? Also interesting to note, all of the Elders names (the missionaries) are some of the most prevalent Utah names there are: Grant, Smith, Young, Price… Awesome attention to detail. A Jensen, Sorensen or Christensen would have been icing.

 

Two By Two “’Cause God Loves Mormons and He Wants Some More!”

Every missionary will tell you that “it’s not about the numbers.” It’s totally about the numbers. The more people you baptize on your mission, the holier and more beloved of God you are. Guys who go to Latin America come back after having baptized hundreds. They’re like gods. True story, my cousin went to Warsaw, not a single lesson, let alone baptism. He came back unbelievably depressed and unhappy, questioning his self worth.

One little religious note, though, you don’t get paired up with a companion in the MTC, and you don’t stay with them your whole mission. You get passed around every few months, paired up with someone who’s been out for a while if you’re new, or you get someone new (a “Greenie”) to train. Quibble, I know, and it helps them with their joke to gloss over this, but that’s the kind of thing that pisses Mormons off because they’re petty like that and I wish they wouldn’t let an unimportant fact close them off from the rest of it.

One of the hardest laughs I had in this whole musical was Elder Price wishing he could go to the most magical place on earth, Orlando. So perfect: manufactured purity and “family values.” Well, the putt putt is pretty boss. I could do without the humidity, though. So instead of Disney World, they’re sent to Uganda, and of course they know nothing of Africa. It’ll be like The Lion King minus Scar and the hyenas, right?

The Elders clapping as they sing is one of the catchiest bits, and yes, I did clap along this morning to my iPod as I jogged through the neighborhood. You can’t help it! And if this song doesn’t show up in roadshows – Mormon talent shows – across the country then I’ll eat my hat. (Note that my hat is made of chocolate, so it’s not a hardship.) There’s a Mormon hymn “I Hope They Call Me On A Mission!” that might get edged out as the most popular pre-mission song if members could let themselves sing the chorus here.

 

You And Me (But Mostly Me) “Every dinner needs a side dish on a slightly smaller plate”

One of the worst times of my life was trying to date return missionaries while I was in college in Utah. So full of themselves, so filled with their own sense of importance, you have to pretty much sit at their knee and beam up at them to get them to notice you. Which means that I didn’t date a lot of them. “I’ll do something incredible that blows God’s freaking mind!” Sure you will, kid. And this mission is all about you. Not, say, the people to whom you’re delivering the message. I’m sorry, did you say something?

 

Hasa Diga Eebowai “Many of our girls get circumcised, their clits get cut right off! [Way-oh!]”

In case you forgot this was a Parker-Stone collaboration, here’s your reminder. As the Elders join in this Hakuna Matata tribute (actually, it reminds me a lot of “Under the Sea”) the actual meaning comes out and it takes the dorky Elder a bit to realize he’s been singing “Fuck you, God” over and over. I also love that the Elders rattle off all of their First World problems while the Africans sing about 80% of them having AIDS and baby raping – you know, to cure yourself from the AIDS. Just a toe tapping little number, this one. And it really, really is.

One of the smarter things they’ve done with the play book is to have the Mormons so clean cut, so 50s with their manner of speech (which is how they actually are) and juxtapose that with the harsh reality of people who live in war torn lands with little to no resources, people who happily tell it like it is. “If you don’t like what we say/ Try living here a couple days/ Watch all of your friends and family die/ Hasa Diga Eebowai!” If you can listen to this and not sing along, “Fuck you God in the ass, mouth and cunt-ah” then you’re a stronger person than I.

 

Turn It Off! “Find the box that’s gay and CRUSH IT!”

The other missionaries get their big Chorus Line-style number, and this is one of the songs that I need to see performed in my life. Need like I need air. What I love so much about Trey and Matt is how they get it, they get the little quirks that set Mormons apart, like how you should just ignore those nagging thoughts, any emotion that doesn’t promote your own faith. Just compartmentalize that stuff and ignore it, yay!

The bit with the kid who’s sister was dying of cancer, so he went to stand in line at the Apple Store, because dealing with icky death is scary! Not to mention that for Mormons, when you die, you’re not really dead, you’re just waiting for the rest of the family, so don’t get all maudlin! Mormons don’t wear black to funerals, did you know that? Sorry, just thought I’d mention it.

True story, a friend of mine got married in St. George (the temple, of course) and his sister didn’t come to the wedding reception because she was on a date. I mean, guys, he could have been The One, and gosh, her brother will be her brother for eternity! He gets it.

That’s weird, right? I mean we all agree that’s weird? But if that bothers you, just turn it off!

 

I Am Here For You “Evening star shines brightly, God makes life anew”

Josh Gad is awesome, and his deeper voice after getting a little praise never fails to crack me up. Also, I want to turn this into the song I sing to my kids at night, if only to be creepy. My style of parenting isn’t for everyone, agreed.  (It’s the hockey mask with lipstick that pushes it over the edge, right?  Okay, no lipstick on the mask, good concrit, folks, thanks.)

 

All American Prophet “I’m gonna take you back to biblical times: 1823!”

For me, this is the most technically and thematically perfect song in the whole production. It has everything, a nod to Donny Osmond’s performance in Joseph And The Technicolor Dream Coat, some Music Man, a tiny Fiddler on the Roof riff, freaking Star Wars jokes, and so much damn dogma worked in that it’s breathtaking.

On one hand, they’re totally making fun of the ridiculousness that is the origin story of the LDS church, but on the other, they’re pretty respectful to it, which is quite the sleight of hand. What’s great is that this song details the Official Origins story, which went through about seven drafts before the leaders decided on this one. Now, it’s fabricated, there are holes galore in the story, but try telling a Mormon that. No really, go try. People tried to tell me it was manufactured, tried to tell me the stuff that makes it seem really weird (like how Joseph had been arrested for graft, how he made claims in his late teens/early twenties of being a god damned necromancer) but that isn’t what’s important.

What’s important is that all of those Mormons had big Mormon families until one day, they made me, and I’m here to share with you the truthiness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Mormon version.

The only problem I have with this song is the joke at the end by Josh Gad, “If you order now I’ll also throw in a set of steak knives!” It just falls flat, too obviously jokey. (From a listening to a soundtrack stand point, mind.) But if that’s the only problem, then that’s pretty swell.

 

Sal Tlay Ka Siti “I bet the goat meat there is plentiful and they have vitamin injections by the case!”

Oh laws, the magical wonderland of Salt Lake City, where Red Cross has plenty of flour for everyone. And the funny thing is that there is a ton of flour there, the Lehi Roller Mills are filled to the brim with it. (That’s the establishing shot in Footloose, by the way. Locals like to tell people how Continental they are, you see.)

“I bet the people there are open-minded and don’t care who you’ve been.” Oh, bless your heart, Jonbonjovi. And Nikki M. James has an utterly gorgeous and clear voice. Never has the phrase, “soon life won’t be so…shitty” sound so ethereal.

And what’s great is how untrue her fantasy version of Utah is. Boy, if you’re not from there, you do not belong there. I took a friend from New Zealand camping in Utah recently and she commented on how everyone was staring at us with menacing undertones. Remember the creepy ginger kid from Children of the Corn, “INTERLOPER!”

Your back is up, waiting for that to be shouted at you. (He wants you, too, Malachi.)  AHH!! Run away!

 

Man Up “Jesus manned up, took a bullet for me and you”

There’s something about 80s power ballads that stuck with Trey Parker, and I’m a-ok with that. He puts a song like this in everything he does (“We’re gonna do a montage!”) and Josh Gad gets what makes those songs funny to Trey. Also, I get a little thrill any time several story lines get knit together in musical form (see: “La Resistance”) – you put that together in a “Jesus Christ Superstar” vein, and I’m overcome with happiness.

Also, the rock-style singing fits Josh’s voice far better than the “whiner” voice he affects for his character. I have sinus-singer issues, I can’t help it. I imagine it sounds less brassy in person – acoustics are a huge part of why you should see things like this live.

 

OK, gang, that’s Intermission, let’s go get a cocktail, hit the head, then rejoin for Act 2.  (Which is right here!)