Reporting Derrick Blakley
CHICAGO (CBS) – The biggest Broadway musical in decades, “The Book of Mormon,” opens tonight in Chicago.
But CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports some local ministers are calling the musical both insensitive and racist, and they’re not even Mormon.
The satire from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone has won nine Tony awards and earned millions on Broadway.
But when Rev. Paul Jakes took in a Chicago preview performance last week, he was appalled.
“Within the show, it became very clear to me that there was something that was really disturbing me, something that was really unsettling me, and it was when the f-bomb was used in reference to our Lord and God,” Jakes said.
The musical’s X-rated mocking of Mormon missionaries is highly profane, and blatantly blasphemous, but Jakes also objected to its depiction of Africans, “dancing on stage with … their groin parts extended as long as an arm.”
Another Baptist minister, Rev. Charles Lyons, said ridiculing clean-living Mormons makes easy pickings.
“Is this a form, another form of bullying? Bullying is often accompanied with a lot of loud laughter by the people standing behind the bully,” Lyons said.
For their part, the show’s creators have made no apologies for the play’s profane content, while making millions from its popularity.
“Trust me, if we just wanted to do the most offensive thing we could, we could make something way more offensive than this,” Parker said.
Critics said that kind of response is just as crude as the show itself.
“What does it say about us, as a culture, that gutter humor, racial humor, religious ridicule is called entertainment?” Lyons said.
Neither the show’s producers, nor representatives for Broadway in Chicago were available to respond to the critics.
As for the Mormon Church itself, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been restrained in its reaction to the show, saying last year “The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.”
The church has also tried to capitalize on the show’s popularity. In Los Angeles, the church took out an ad in the theater playbill saying “The book is always better.”
The playbills for the Chicago performances also have an ad from the church, saying “I’ve read the book.”
That’s exactly what they hope the audience will do.