The Most Amazing Book...

Though Justin and I have been together for two years, and plan on spending the rest of our lives together, it still feels a little strange to me whenever I plan something in the distant future for the two of us to do together. Some tiny voice in the back of my mind will question, "But what if you're not together by then?" But then, a stronger, more rational voice will say, "Of course we'll still be together by then - plan away!" Every time I schedule something months in the future, it feels like I am making a vote of confidence in the strength of our relationship.

That is definitely how I felt back in February, a full ten months ago, when I purchased tickets for The Book of Mormon, the much-lauded musical by the creators of South Park, Trey Stone and Matt Parker. The show wasn't even going to open until December, but Justin has been listening to the soundtrack and dreaming about having the chance to see it almost as long as I've known him. Back in 2011 I briefly entertained the idea of springing for a long weekend trip to New York to see it for his birthday, but it was sold out for months and months in advance. Besides, the whole idea was kind of cost-prohibitive at the time anyway.

When I found out that the show was coming to Chicago on tour, I knew that I had to get tickets for us to go. I angsted about whether I'd be able to score tickets, given the popularity of the show on Broadway, but then I received an email from American Express, with whom I have a credit card. They were offering pre-sale tickets to cardmembers, and I made a mental note to log on to Ticketmaster the moment the tickets went on sale. I nabbed a pair of tickets for the show's second performance, and from there, I could only bide my time for ten long months.

Tonight, we finally squeezed into the sold-out theater for our chance to see the show. Justin was so excited that it was worth every penny, even before the show started. When the curtain went up, however, it was soon apparent that this wasn't going to be my kind of show. I knew that the show would be irreverent, coming from Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and it wasn't necessarily the content or the language that offended me. It was the fact that I felt like it was poking fun at the genre too much.

Whereas Justin doesn't take his musical theater seriously, and prefers shows that expose the artifice of its tropes and traditions, I take my musical theater very seriously, and prefer shows that draw me into their storyline and help me become lost in the world created on the stage. With The Book of Mormon, however, I was acutely aware of the fact that I was watching a show, not because it was specifically self-referential like Spamalot, for example, which includes such numbers as "The Song That Goes Like This," "If You Want to Succeed on Broadway," and "Whatever Happened to My Part?" Instead, The Book of Mormon employs theatrical conventions in such an obvious and exaggerated way that I felt they detracted somewhat from the storytelling.

Nevertheless, the show did have some very funny moments, such as the "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream," in which the main character has a terrifying vision of the hell that awaits him after having sinned, which includes Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmner, dancing cups of coffee, and a towering rock guitar-playing Satan. And there were a handful of catchy, memorable songs, including "Hello," the opening number depicting the Mormon missionary training facility, and "Hasa Diga Eebowai," in which the newly-arrived Mormon missionaries learn that the favorite expression used by the locals they are planning to convert translates to "Fuck you, God." The score doesn't quite pack in the hits like a typical Andrew Lloyd Webber production, but it certainly wasn't lacking either.

I didn't quite feel that The Book of Mormon lived up to the incredible hype surrounding it, but Justin certainly seemed to enjoy it, and since the tickets were a gift to him, I 'd say it was a good present. I wouldn't go through the efforts of buying after-market tickets to one of the sold-out performances, but if they continue to extend the show's run at the same pace that they are at present, then by all means, pick up some tickets and judge it for yourself.

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