The Book of Mormon–which The Observer reviews in this week’s issue–isn’t just one of the best-reviewed Broadway shows in memory. It’s also one of the weirdest-reviewed, as practically every critic tries to prove that they know a little bit about the Latter-Day Saints by stuffing in metaphor and churchy tone. To wit: Entertainment Weekly commands its readers, “Behold–praise the nondenominational gods of risk taking and creativity!–The Book of Mormon tells an original story.” The review concludes with a missionary pun: “I believe in The Book of Mormon.”
The gather-round-the-wagon-ye-children “Behold” exhortation isn’t exactly original, though it’s a bit more committed than some critics’ overwrought nods at religion: NY1 attempts a “theatre heaven” gag, while the Daily News finds itself “among the converted.” New York‘s Scott Brown falls on the “more committed to his jokes” side of the wagon train, leading in the voice of the missionary who may have convinced Entertainment Weekly: “Do you believe in theater, friend? Or has your faith been strained to the breaking point? If so, I say unto thee, go forth to the tabernacle otherwise known as the Eugene O’Neill and receive, full in the face, a new testament from the rude prophets of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone.” And the New York Times’ Ben Brantley goes full-on tabernacle speaker:
This is to all the doubters and deniers out there, the ones who say that heaven on Broadway does not exist, that it’s only some myth our ancestors dreamed up. I am here to report that a newborn, old-fashioned, pleasure-giving musical has arrived at theTheater, the kind our grandparents told us left them walking on air if not on water. So hie thee hence, nonbelievers (and believers too), to “The Book of Mormon,” and feast upon its sweetness.
Every theater writer in town must be thrilled to finally have a new object of humor–spurious humor though it may be–as Spider-Man limps ahead. Perhaps the Tonys will have jokes about more than Julie Taymor this year.
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