Chaos Attraction

The Book Of Mormon and Mary Poppins: The Musicals

2015-07-11, 2:14 p.m.

So on Saturday morning, after checking out of the hotel, I headed back to other areas of the bay for two theater shows.

The first one was The Book Of Mormon in San Jose. I HAVE BEEN WANTING TO SEE THIS SHOW FOR YEARS AND IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT.* I absolutely loved it. It's right up there in my top musicals now along with Avenue Q (which has one of the same writers) and City of Angels as #3. It's super awesome and worth all the awards it got.

* Merry told me about some friend of hers who has bought tickets to the show three times and had to give them up to others every time because she always ends up out of state on tour and can't make it back in time. OUCH.

For those of you who don't know about it--apparently there's a lot of you because I"m bringing it up to everyone and getting a lot of blank stares-- The Book Of Mormon musical is about two young Mormon missionaries who get sent to Uganda, where they realize that recruitment isn't going well because life in Uganda sucks. There's a warlord called General Butt Fucking Naked* who shoots people and wants to cut all the clitorises off, and eighty percent of the population has AIDS, and people think raping babies will cure their AIDS. Naturally, these folks have no interest in religion and are literally singing a song that translates into 'Fuck you, God!" The missionaries, who think the whole African experience is like Lion King**, are incredibly shocked.

* Based off an actual warlord calling himself General Butt Naked, who was a billion times worse than the one in the musical, and came to a similar change of heart.
** It amuses me no end that the next theater show rolling through San Jose Broadway is Lion King. I think they should have been in reverse order though....

One of them, Elder Price, has always been everyone's perfect golden boy and has a freakout after watching a guy get shot in front of him and wants to leave. He ditches his mission companion, Elder Cunningham, a guy who just wants to be someone's best friend/sidekick except he's a nerdy dude who makes up things when nervous. So when Elder Cunningham is told that the Ugandans are interested in learning more about Mormonism--the chief's daughter is inspired by the idea of Salt Lake City and somewhere where life doesn't suck--he finds that reading The Book Of Mormon doesn't keep them interested, but throwing in references to Boba Fett and the Starship Enterprise get people's attention, and they especially take notice when he claims that instead of fucking a baby to cure your AIDS, try a frog instead. Hey, you try being a nineteen-year-old who suddenly has to try to prevent someone from raping a baby or cutting off a lady's clitoris. You'd start claiming that's in the book as holy writ too.

Anyway, next thing you know all the Ugandans are totally inspired by Mormonism--or at least the version that Cunningham made up that fits with their own lifestyles and throws in some sci-fi-- and the Mormon elders are going to give an award to the Ugandan mission for most recruits. Too bad the new recruits decide to put on a surprise pageant of the Joseph Smith story and... it involves a "fuck frog," Brigham Young the warlord who cut off a woman's clitoris and had his nose turned into one, the words "be really fucking polite to everybody," a graphic acting out of how Joseph Smith died of dysentery (I guess the Ugandans related to that more than being killed by an angry mob), and then graphic depictions of everybody fucking. WOOT! So all the new and old Mormons are told they're awful and have the mission terminated.

However, when the missionaries realize that (a) hey, the Ugandans get that it's all metaphor anyway, and (b) hey, it still works to get the message across even if it's creative, they elect to stay in Uganda, end up scaring the warlord into conversion, and by the end everyone's preaching The Book of Arnold (Cunningham). It's hilarious, dirty, inspiring genius and you should see this show at every opportunity unless you can't handle dirty talk and swearing, of which there is tons.

I also recommend buying the cast album* and singing "Hasa Diga Eebowai" and certain other songs to yourself when you're in a bad mood. Because for all of your first world problems like job hating and whatever, hey, at least you don't have maggots in your scrotum.**

* As of my posting this around the end of the month, I am STILL obsessively listening to this soundtrack at every possible opportunity.
** "You should really see a doctor about that." "I am the doctor."

The other one was at Woodminster: Mary Poppins: The Musical. I think I inherently wasn't going to be too into this one since (a) I have had very little sleep all week but especially hadn't had any last night and that started to really kick in around 7 p.m., and (b) I was already quite high off of Book of Mormon, which is a drastically different show from this one. The program helpfully informed us about the dramaz of working with P.L. Travers (as recently somewhat fictionally detailed in the movie Saving Mr. Banks), and how this musical was kind of her revenge on Disney because he never got the stage rights to it, and she only allowed one if it was all British, and nobody from the movie could work on it, and yes, that was in her will.

Anyway, the musical has a LOT more songs to it (way beyond the Disney, though I dunno if I'd say I thought any of them were memorable). And it has a bit more plot, mostly focusing on Mr. Banks and how he's essentially an asshole because he wasn't raised by his parents and was raised by a mean nanny, Miss Andrew. You have the impression that he approved of her methods, but the longer the show goes on the more you find out this wasn't the case. Mary Poppins leaves at the end of Act One (something along the lines of things have to get worse without me, I ...guess?) and Mrs. Banks actually goes so far as to track down Miss Andrew and she's straight up evil and terrible. Mr. Banks runs out of the room, never to return until she's gone. Oops.

We also find out that Mr. Banks got in trouble for not approving the loan of some money to some dubious German dude who would have nothing to show for his schemes than making a lot of money (he does approve a guy who wants to open a factory), and ends up suspended without pay for probably 5/8 of the play when the German makes their rival bank a lot of money in a gold mine. Eventually the bank boss apologizes and promotes Mr. Banks once it turns out that the German was a scammer and screwed over the rival bank. There's also a few brief mentions of Mrs. Banks's previous career as an actress, but now she has to play the part of Mrs. Banks. There's also the time when they all go to some kind of store in the park (where "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" goes on with the entire cast) and they meet some lady that used to give young George Banks gingerbread stars*. The scene kinda explains that word a bit more than I recall in the movie.

* Weird thing in this production: there are two women in the cast who knew Mr. Banks as a kid, and they all look young enough to at least be around his age, not even a white haired wig or anything.

Notably, I think Mary Poppins is a lot ...sterner...than the movie version. More matter-of-fact, refuses to explain anything and yet manages to pull that behavior off with her employers (like oh, straight up disappearing and reappearing and not saying shit about it other than leaving the kids a note). At one point Michael wants her to be...more snippy, I guess? I forget how this was phrased, but he liked it when she showed up again and somehow magically kicked out Miss Andrew. Her relationship with Bert also seems a wee bit more dating-ish, or at least she mentions him taking her out.

This one has a fair number of special effects, which looked rather uh, fun for them to deal with under the circumstances. As the show went on, I had the impression that they were having A Bad Night, mostly because I could spot stuff like the bottomless carpetbag having objects fed through it. There's one scene where the kitchen set pretty much collapses and gets re-put back by Mary--not bad. And there's flying, which went well. Mary enters and exits via umbrella a few times, and one time with a kite, and there's a few kite-flying scenes, and Bert apparently also flies and does flips through the air during "Step In Time." (For those of you wondering about penguins, there aren't any, but a few kids dress up as similarly looking people at one point and dance.)

However, my favorite moment was the scene where the mother was apparently late entering on stage and the kids were sitting there awkwardly, and then I heard a "FUCK" in a loud sort of whisper, and the mother eventually went on big applause. My theory is that she probably caught her skirt on a nail or something backstage and had A Moment...but as I heard that noise, I thought of the theater's previous announcement before the show that 118 kids were here as part of the "kids see theater free" program..... I fear for whoever said that after the show, but I found that delightful in the moment. Especially after seeing The Book Of Mormon.

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