The Book of Mormon by Matt Stone, Trey Parker and Robert Lopez (2018) – A Theatre Review




Conceived after Matt Stone and Trey Parker met Robert Lopez in 2003, The Book of Mormon is a musical comedy that has quickly become one of the most successful musicals of all time. Premiering in New York in 2010 The Book of Mormon has enjoyed a continuing success in many countries around the world and is still continuing its run in places like Broadway, The West End and other tours like a US National tour and in Australia. Matt Stone and Trey Parker have reached international fame with their long running comedy show South Park, but also have produced films like Team America: World Police and Orgazmo whilst starring in BASEketball. They have made a name for themselves with their controversial humour and willingness to make fun of anything and everything. Robert Lopez is a songwriter of musicals like Avenue Q but also has written songs for films like Frozen and Coco. Apparently, Avenue Q – a comedy musical itself, owes a debt to South Park: Bigger, Longer & Cut (the film based on the show), so the teaming of these three seems quite natural. The Book of Mormon sees the trio returning to their musical humour with a parody story to take on the subjects of: Mormonism, Missionaries and African Dangers.


The Ugly Readings

Starting with an often-criticised part of the musical: these ‘African Dangers’ can all to easily be seen as racism. Africa is depicted as being a dark and difficult place and this is necessary for a lot of the brutal humour, but it also relies on a reading of the African characters as simple minded or savage. This position is somewhat hard to defend. Much like The King and I, the focus on Mormonism seems to suggest a sense that the Africans can (or need to) learn from a Mormon (white American) idea. However, and more likely their intentions, the offset of the innocent Mormon with the brutal place of warring, poverty stricken and disease-ridden parts of the world produces a lot of the dark comedy. Who, in Africa; with AIDs, without food, water and with people threatening them with guns, would care about reading the Book of Mormon? This really leads to a lot of blunt and extreme humour: Hasa Diga Eebowai meaning fuck you god, someone fucking a baby to get rid of their aids, maggots in the scrotum, “the fuck is this?” in response to a Mormon, General Butt-Fucking-Naked and “And if you put that gun down, oh okay I’ll leave.” It’s a really hard line though, but perhaps the initial excitement that Africa will be like The Lion King helps to see the line – especially since the character singing the song as a send-off to the Mormons admits to never having been to Africa.


The Positive Readings

With a large cast of Mormons and Africans and lavish sets, props and choreography, The Book of Mormon really is a visual treat as well as feeding in surprise laughs from all characters. Meanwhile the central cast of Elder Cunningham (J. Michael Finley) and Elder Price (Dom Simpson) make for a surprisingly heart-warming core to the play but, whilst the story is about them, they’re not as humorous as the situations or rest of the cast is. They have their funny moments but are well defined characters, that are also well performed and not just caricatures, which is essential to the main theme of the play. The central cast could have been empty stand ins as well and it would have worked to make fun of organised religion; but by developing them into real people, who hope, dream and struggle The Book of Mormon becomes more than a condemning joke – as creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone comment its “An Atheist[‘s] love letter to religion”.



The Book of Mormon has quickly become one of the top grossing musicals for a reason, it’s continual tours a further testament to its quality. Fans adore the dark humour but there’s a lot more there than meets the eye. Surprisingly not just a critical tale, The Book of Mormon provides a story of characters finding ways to help people and wishing to do the right thing. To say it’s a musical that is just funny isn’t right, but to say it’s a musical that’s just a good story that isn’t right either. A lot of comedies have one outweighing the other, to be all story with few laughs or all laughs and no heart. Matt Stone, Trey Parker and Robert Lopez have worked hard to make sure that the characters and story have weight as well, as to have all the silly and dark humour that comes across in thick doses but with never losing sight of what’s important. It is their usual comedic style but with a bit more at the core of the story.


Further Reading

Website: and

Prince of Wales Theatre:

Matt Stone: IBDB

Trey Parker: IBDB

South Park Studios: here.

Robert Lopez: Masterworks On Broadway

Reviews: The Guardian, TimeOutThe Daily Telegraph, Telegraph and LondonTheatre

Quotes: here. and Overhead Quotes here.

Images: here.

Buy the Script: here.
Buy the Sound: here

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