Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Book Of Mormon Is True!

To: Abbottsville Fourth Ward
From: Donna Banta
Subject: I witnessed the Book of Mormon!

Way back in January a group of Post-Mormons I met on Facebook decided to see The Book of Mormon on Broadway. Mark and I figured why not join them? After all, those South Park guys write pretty good stuff. It was a safe bet they'd deliver again. But even if the show turned out to be a dog we'd still enjoy it. (It couldn't be any worse than the work it was based on.)

So I, along with several others, sent checks to a woman we'd never met, who had charged tickets to her credit card for people she had never met. Meanwhile, David, a NYC resident, made reservations at two different restaurants for large parties of people he had never met. (But none of us worried because everyone was Ex-Mormon!)

Then on March 24 I opened up my New York Times and read this rave review by Ben Brantley.

Immediately I was gripped by a dread that worsened as the days progressed. Did we really have tickets to The Book of Mormon? What if something went wrong? Like we missed the plane, or the box office screwed up, or the entire production got taken back up to heaven? Oh my god!


Mark was trapped in an all together different gulag, by a co-worker who repeatedly warned him of the musical's potentially offensive material. "Mr. Banta, that show has lots of swear words." "Mr. Banta, have you ever watched South Park? It's pretty irreverent." Things came to a head early last week with the following exchange: "Mr. Banta, my friend told me they say the 'c' word in that play at least fifty times!" "Exactly what do you mean by the 'c' word?" The young man shut Mark's office door, swung around, and whispered, "cunt."

Crowd clamors for a free "Book of Mormon"
Finally, on the afternoon of Saturday, April 16, we arrived at the Eugene O'Neill Theater one hour before the performance. People swarmed the entrance of the sold-out show in hopes of winning tickets in a free give-away. I pulled out my phone to call Olivia to ask if she'd picked up our tickets. But before I could dial, she was standing in front of me, tickets in hand. (My heroine.)
Olivia, me, and Mark
The Book of Mormon -- rated R
I wonder what the playwright O'Neill
would have thought.
Some thirty minutes later we were joined by more wonderful Ex-Mormons and also my cousin and his son, who have never been Mormon, but are really really good sports. We filed into the theater past an eager scalper who shouted in a thick Brooklyn accent, "Mormon? Anyone got Mormon?"

Five minutes into the performance I thanked god for the Book of Mormon.

Because the show begins with the premise that all Mormon boys are expected to go on missions, the audience immediately sympathizes with the two main characters in spite of their foibles. Elder Price is a self-righteous pretty boy goody two-shoes, and Elder Cunningham is a pudgy self-conscious schlub who tells lies to win people's approval. (Think of Nephi and Lemuel as mission companions. Or for those who haven't read the sacred text, Wally Cleaver and Lumpy.)
The missionaries' interaction with each other, as well as their efforts to convert a small tribe in Uganda provide the set up for some hilarious dialog and show-stopping numbers that rival the great musicals of the previous century. My favorite was "Turn it Off." -- Imagine an all male chorus line of tap dancing Mormon missionaries. The lights go down, then come up, and they're still singing and dancing, only faster. The lights go down, then come up again, only now they're singing, dancing, and wearing HOT PINK VESTS. It was a miracle. Another winner was "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream," where poor Elder Price is terrorized by Genghis Khan, Hitler, Johnny Cochran, and a duo of dancing Starbucks' cups. But perhaps the biggest miracle came at the curtain call, when the mostly young and unknown cast received a rousing standing ovation. What a moment for them! And deservedly so. They had served with honor, and the spirit was never stronger.

Afterward there was the party David arranged at Nocello with the usual loud laughter, light-mindedness, evil speaking of the Lord's anointed, and in my case, martinis. We even have the t-shirts to remember it by.
Jenny arranged for the shirts!
This is the back, the front says "Ban Mormon Marriage."
When Mark got back to the work today, his co-worker rushed into his office, shut the door and asked, "Mr. Banta, how many times did they say "cunt?" "None that I can recall," Mark replied. The young man slumped his shoulders and looked dejected. Mark smiled to himself.


  1. I want to see this in a big way. What do you think the chances are it will come to Utah ...? (heh)

    Two of my favorite quotes: (It couldn't be any worse than the work it was based on.); and (But none of us worried because everyone was Ex-Mormon!). LOL!!!

  2. Perhaps not Utah, CD, but maybe San Francisco -- where I've got an aero-bed with your name on it!

  3. you're back! cannot WAIT to hear even more details!! sounds like a blast!

  4. The play sounds fun! I'm glad you got to see it and have a good time.

  5. Thanks Sarah and Ahab.

    In his review of the new play "Sister Act" in today's NYT, Charles Isherwood wrote, "I wish I could report that the singing nuns from the Church of Philly Soul are giving those perky Mormons in Africa a run for their money in the unholy hilarity department. But when the jubilant choral numbers subside ... Sister Act slumps back into bland musical theater ..."

    What can I say? Nobody cuts it up like the Mormons!

  6. "...or the entire production got taken back up to heaven?" Bwahahahaha!

    Wow, i so wish i could've been there!

  7. Yay, I've been waiting for this post since Sat. I keep chuckling at the image of a mormon kid being terrorized by dancing Starbucks cups.

    What an experience! Donna, will you see it again if it comes to SF?

  8. Deb -- absolutely, hopefully with all of you guys. We'll need t-shirts too!

  9. @sandi, wish you'd been there too!

  10. Sounds fantastic! I hope it makes it out to Dallas.

  11. Faith, I used to live in Dallas. I hope it plays there too. Preferably at a nice venue like the Dallas Theater Center.

  12. It was such a delight to meet you! I am so much more trusting of Ex-mormons than Mormons... we've learned a lot leaving the lies of the cult. I too wish they had said cunt more, it's quite splendidly one of my favorite Postmormon words. ;-)

    Miss O

  13. Miss O, it was great meeting you too! I hope to see you again soon. Do you go to the exmo conference? Or maybe we'll have to plan another theater trip.

    Thank you so much for reserving the tickets for us. I'm putting mine in a little frame. (Gotta love it, "The Book of Mormon -- Parental Advisory.")

  14. I'm so jealous you got to see it! Sounds like it was pretty amazing!

  15. Nicky, it was awesome. If it comes to SF, you guys should come out and we'll all go together!

  16. Will it come to Utah? Haha. I love you CD. I want to go! I didn't even know about it. Thanks for the info! Ex-Mormons rock! ;)

  17. Becky you should, I'll bet you can take a train down. Get your tickets soon -- I hear it's sold out way in advance.