Just the right amount of wrong

At a certain point in a situation, when things have ramped up to difficult, you (and by you, I mean me) have to make a decision whether to dig your heels in (again, my heels not yours) or give it all up. Such was my day.

I love and hate NYC because there’s so much to do. Knowing that in several people’s lifetimes I will never see or eat or do all things I want to, I feel an obligation to at least knock that list down several notches every time I’m in town. As a result, it’s the least relaxing and most entertaining city on earth for me.

All day I waffled on seeing a show. I’m in the theatre business so I should but I’m tired and I want to go home  but it’s my one night to see something but it’s expensive… Etc. I checked out tickets for Book of Mormon – a new musical – ($127 a pop) and decided to try the lottery. A lot of Broadway shows have a ticket lottery. You show up early, put your name in a bucket, they pull names out and the people who are picked get to buy front row seats for $32. It’s a slamming deal when you win.

The Book of Mormon lottery had hundreds of people vying for 20 seats and a jolly bunch of kids were trying to get in to see the show. Most of them were under the age of 30, and when some of their names were called their excitement rivaled American Idol contestants who get the yellow ticket. Lots of yelling and some jumping up and down. I did not win the lottery so I figured I’d buy a ticket. I was already there and i’d heard such good things about the show.

And then they sold out before I got to the ticket booth. Curses! The security guard came out and said there would be cancellations and the box office was “very hopeful” that we would all get tickets if we were patient and he redirected us into another line. Here’s the digging in point. I could go home. But I thought I’d probably get a ticket if I stayed. But how long would it take?

When I was in college, my roommates and I decided to try to see one of the final performances of The Night of the Iguana at the Goodman theater in Chicago and we waited something like 7 hours for tickets. We never intended to wait that long. We didn’t show up thinking we had all day and really wanted to spend it sitting on the stairs of the Goodman lobby waiting for possible tickets. But you think you’ll wait awhile, and then a while longer and then you make friends with people in line around you and at a certain point when you’ve waited long enough, you’re committed. However long it takes. However much it costs. You’ll sit there until it happens.

I didn’t wait 7 hours today. But I did wait 2. For a show I wasn’t sure I wanted to see to begin with. But after the first hour, I wanted to see it a lot more than I had earlier. And by the second hour I just hoped I had enough time to eat before the show because I was staying until I got a ticket.

At 715 I got a ticket for an 8pm show so I had just enough time for a bowl of soup  (it’s freaking cold here right now) and back in time for the overture. From the minute that spotlight hits the gold angel with a trumpet at the top of the proscenium, people started laughing and didn’t quit until they walked out the door.

Book of Mormon concerns a group of young Mormon men who are sent out on missions. 2 in particular – Elder Price and Elder Cunningham – are sent to Uganda (or Ugahanda, as one calls it). Elder Price has a fresh scrubbed face and perfect Ken doll hair and he seems like the quintessential Mormon kid whereas Elder Cunningham is chubby with fuzzy hair and an oversharing manner, sort of like Chris Farley’s love child with Ethel Merman. These two unprepared kids go to Africa armed only with the blue book of Mormon and their conviction that they’ll change the world (Price) or a lack of direction to do anything else (Cunningham) only to be met by a tribe riddled with AIDS and oppressed by a warlord obsessed with female circumcision. I would say that you can imagine the chaos that ensues but the scene of the Africans reenacting the Book of Mormon has to be seen to be believed.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone have huge hearts. They tease because they love. In this show they manage to question Mormon theology without questioning their good intentions and the result is hilarious. I don’t know how they managed to tackle religion vs. real world issues without turning it into a religion bashing show. That takes skill and I salute them. I also don’t know how the Mormon church feels about it and if they have tried to shut it down (like the Catholics did when the movie Dogma came out) or if they are choosing to ignore it and hope it goes away.

If they’ve chosen the latter course, I have some bad news: The show is awesome. It’s selling like gangbusters and it hasn’t even officially opened yet. It’s bringing in a whole new generation of kids to live theatre performances who enjoy the naughty, raunchy feel and the startling overuse of the word f*ck but in the midst they are getting a message of hope and redemption. If Disney collaborated with recovering crack ‘hos and decided to put on a show, they just might come up with Book of Mormon.

In other words, it’s f*cking brilliant, it’s better than Cats and I hope it runs for 100 years.

3 thoughts on “Just the right amount of wrong

  1. Great tags! I looked this up after your post yesterday, but couldn’t get a good feel for the show- thanks for the “review.” (And maybe you should become a theater reviewer- it’s writing and theater- two loves.)

  2. i love that book of mormon is appealing to a different generation. i’m always pleased when art makes the masses get all up in arms. proves that it still has a bite. your description of the lottery reminds me of the nights we threw our names in for wicked…and didn’t get them. remember?

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