Theatre: The Book of Mormon
"Hello! My name is Elder Price
And I would like to share with you the most amazing book..."
A Broadway musical
by Trey Parker and Matt Stone
(of South Park
) and Robert Lopez (of Avenue Q
The story follows two young Mormon
men who are assigned to Uganda
as part of their mission. Elder Kevin Price is a fresh-faced, eager young man
, while Elder Arnold Cunningham is an awkward goofball who hasn't really read all the scriptures.
The musical pokes fun at organized religion, and takes some admitted liberties with Mormon doctrines, such as the story of Joseph Smith and the magical AIDS frog. In the end, however, the characters realize that their faith has inspired them to be better people and to help others. Even if they convey the Bible's stories in a wildly inaccurate way — typically involving Mordor
and Boba Fett
— their honesty and optimism ends up convincing their Ugandan students to convert to Mormonism and try to make the world a better place.
Created by the same people who made South Park
, so you shouldn't be surprised to find a lot
of Black Comedy
The cast album was released, and became the best-selling cast album of all time on iTunes, beating out American Idiot
and reaching #2. The full soundtrack can be streamed for free on the official Facebook page
The show won a huge number of Tony Awards
, including Best Musical.
Not to be confused with the actual religious text The Book of Mormon
Hello, my name is Elder Troper, and I would like to share with you this amazing trope list...
- Accidental Misnaming: Elder Cunningham is simply incapable of remembering Nabulungi's name.
- The Ace: Initially, Elder Price.
- Adorkable: Elder Cunningham.
- Author Allusion: The costumes that the townspeople wear during the "All American Prophet" number are recycled from Trey & Matt's first film, Cannibal The Musical, which not-coincidentally was a musical with some Mormon jokes.
- Affectionate Parody: Of musical theatre. And possibly religion as a whole.
- American Title: Two songs: "All-American Prophet" (the actual story of Mormon origins) and "Joseph Smith: American Moses" (the horribly off version told to the Ugandans by Elder Cunningham). Amusingly, both versions can be considered straight examples, since the Ugandans are telling the story as they know it.
- An Aesop: Very specifically averted. Word of God is that they don't want to insist that one particular lesson should be learned from the show and prefer to leave it open for people to interpret any way they'd like.
- Armored Closet Gay: Played for Laughs with Elder McKinley. Who in "Turn It Off" is trying to hide these feelings.
- Artistic License – History: In-Universe, we have "Joseph Smith American Moses," the Ugandans' version of the Joseph Smith story, based on Elder Cunningham's inaccurate teachings.
- Artistic License – Religion: The mechanics of how a mission operates are completely off, per Rule of Funny:
- Missionaries find out where they're going via mail long before they even arrive at the Missionary Training Center.
- They also don't spend their entire two years with the same companion; they're usually at least one of a hundred or so missionaries operating within a mission chapter's boundary (which, while it may vary in size, is almost certainly larger than just one village). The opportunity to be assigned to a different companion/area within the mission comes up every 6 weeks.
- Some liberties are taken with Mormon history and beliefs — Mormon doctrine claims that eleven believers other than the religion's founder saw 'the Golden Plates' (which tell the story of how Ancient Jews came to America and became Amerindians), and Mormon doctrine holds that Hell is not a place as portrayed in "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" but a metaphor (a metaphor for 'what' is not clear).
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
- During "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream", we have the spirits of Genghis Kahn, Jeffrey Dahmer, Adolf Hitler, and.....Johnnie Cochran show up in one verse:
Adolf Hitler: I started a war, and killed millions of Jews.
Genghis Khan: I slaughtered the Chinese.
Jeffrey Dahmer: I stabbed a guy and fucked his corpse!
Johnnie Cochran: I got O.J. freed.
- As the Good Book Says: Subverted. Elder Cunningham can't find appropriate verses that condemn things like raping babies or genital mutilation, so he resorts to making things up.
- Ass Pull: Elder Cunningham does this repeatedly, In-Universe. When the Africans perform a stage play of the events of the Book of Mormon as described by Elder Cunningham to the Mission President (a version that features Joseph Smith having sex with frogs, battling dysentery, and encounters with Ewoks), he decommissions the mission.
- Ass Shove: Happens to Elder Price in Act II. It's a bit of Mood Whiplash — at first, it looks like General Butt-Fucking-Naked is going to kill or otherwise mutilate Elder Price... and then we see him in the doctor's office, where an X-Ray shows that his own copy of the Book of Mormon's been shoved up there.
- Back from the Dead: Played With when a disillusioned Nabulungi tells the other villagers that Elder Cunningham isn't coming back because "he was eaten by lions, alright?" When he walks back onstage, Mafala excitedly declares, "Our prophet returns even from the dead!" It's great to use as an intimidation strategy on people like General Butt Fucking Naked.
- Bad Dreams: The Spooky Mormon Hell Dream. Apparently it's nothing to be concerned about, and Elder McKinley wonders if he was in it.
- Bookends: The musical begins with missionaries going door to door and ringing doorbells. The ending number has the newly-converted Ugandans going mud hut to mud hut with the "Book of Arnold."
- Break the Cutie: Elder Cunningham.
- Nabulungi definitely qualifies as well, if her reprise of "Hasa Diga Eebowai" after discovering the truth about Elder Cunningham's 'Mormon' stories is any indication.
- Break the Haughty: Elder Price.
- Brick Joke: Several, most notably "Joseph Smith, American Prophet" to "Making Things Up Again"
- "I HAVE MAGGOTS IN MY SCROTUM!!!"
- Camp Straight: YMMV depending on the cast, but many of the Elders are usually this, most noticeably Elder Price.
- The Chief's Daughter: Nabulungi.
- Cluster F-Bomb: The Ugandans. Particularly their first song, "Hasa Diga Eebowai", primarily because it's Ugandan for "Fuck you, God!"
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: Elder Price's idea of torture during "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" involves being force-fed coffee
- Country Matters: The Ugandans enjoy this swear almost as much as the F bomb in "Hasa Diga Eebowai."
- Creator Cameo: Trey Parker and Matt Stone provide the voices of the Narrator, Mormon the Nephite, and Jesus Christ in the opening scenes of Acts I and II.
- Cringe Comedy: The Ugandans' performance of "Joseph Smith: American Moses", informed by Elder Cunningham's not-at-all-accurate account that blends their own troubles with the Joseph Smith story (more accurately told in Elder Price's song "All American Prophet"), is very much this.
- Crisis of Faith: Happens to Elder Price. Interestingly, it isn't resolved by the end of the play; instead, he just embraces "having complete doubt that God exists" as his new state of mind.
- Crossover Cosmology: Elder Cunningham starts mixing the Mormon theology with Star Wars, Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings.
- Crowd Song: Many, most notably "Hasa Diga Eebowai" and "Man Up".
- Dare to Be Badass: Elder Cunningham does this to himself with "Man Up".
- Dark Reprise: A section of "You And Me (But Mostly Me)" gets a Dark Reprise in the middle of "I Am Africa", and Nabalungi gets a Dark Reprise of "Hasa Diga Eebowai".
- Decon-Recon Switch: Spends the first half completely mocking and poking fun at religion, only to finally re-affirm and embrace the core of it; that it was always meant to help people and bring them together.
- Decoy Protagonist: Act 1, especially "But Mostly Me," sets up Elder Price as the hero and Elder Cunningham as the Plucky Comic Relief.By the end, Elder Cunningham has become a new prophet, with Elder Price as one of his followers.
- Dialogue Reversal: When Elder Price and Elder Cunningham reprise "But Mostly Me", the titular line of dialogue is spoken by Elder Cunningham instead.
- Disney Acid Sequence: "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream"
- Disney Princess: Word of God says Nabulungi is a parody of these.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?:
- "Baptize Me" includes a multitude of Double Entendres.
- The moment when General Butt Fucking Naked and his guards close in on Elder Price is reminiscent of a scene from the story of Abinadi in the original The Book of Mormon. In fact, Elder Price quotes Abinadi directly by saying "Touch me not!"
- Drunk on Milk: Elder Price acts as if under the influence of alcohol after Drowning His Sorrows in...coffee?
- Eagleland: When the Elders first arrive in Uganda, they are approached by the General's soldiers, who shout "German? British?". Elder Price smiles and waves and Elder Cunningham takes out his camera and starts filming everything, to which one soldier groans "American".
- Evil Lawyer Joke: The inhabitants of Spooky Mormon Hell include Adolf Hitler, Genghis Khan, Jeffery Dahmer, and Johnnie Cochran.
Hilter: I started a war and killed millions of Jews!
Genghis Khan: I slaughtered the Chinese!
Dahmer: I stabbed a guy and fucked his corpse!
Cochran: I got O.J. freed!
- Easy Evangelism: Completely deconstructed.
- Establishing Character Moment: During "Hello!", we get this insight:
Missionary Leader: No, no Elder Cunningham! That's not how we do things around here! You're making things up again!
- Everybody Knew Already: At the end, the Ugandans reveal that they always knew Elder Cunningham completely made up his story of Mormon origins, but were inspired by the optimism of building a better home for themselves.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream".
- Expy: Ugandan General Butt Fucking Naked is a stand-in for the Liberian warlord General Butt Naked, whose Butt Naked Brigade really did use Full Frontal Assaults that were a lot less funny than they sound.
- Eye Scream: One of the benefits of living in "Sal Tlay Ka Siti" is the lack of flies biting your eyeballs.
- Foreshadowing: Elder Cunningham's speech to Elder Price, in which he suggests that the real hero of The Lord of the Rings was Samwise Gamgee. This foreshadows how Elder Cunningham, who is himself a Plucky Comic Relief sidekick to Elder Price, will actually be the one to unite the Ugandans in faith and to defeat General Butt Fucking Naked.
- Full-Frontal Assault: General Butt Fucking Naked says that he kills people butt. fucking. naked! Just before delivering his Ass Shove on Elder Price, the General begins to strip down.
- The Fundamentalist: Elder Price, at the beginning. He learns to loosen up.
- Geeky Analogy: Elder Cunningham rationalizes concepts of The Book of Mormon to himself and explains them to the Africans using Star Wars and Lord Of The Rings references.
- G-Rated Drug: Coffee, to Elder Price at least.
- Give Geeks a Chance: Elder Cunningham and Nabalungi.
- Hakuna Matata: Played with twice. Most noticeably in "Hasa Diga Eebowai" where the true meaning of the phrase subverts the normal optimism of the trope, which is not surprising considering that the English translation of the phrase is "Fuck you, God". The Trope Namer is even referenced with "Does it mean no worries for the rest of our days?" The trope is then deconstructed with "Turn It Off" where the missionaries sing about forgetting their problems, but instead of this being a sign of how care-free they are, it hints at Stepford Smiler tendencies as the Elders suppress their emotions through tap-dance, including a sister succumbing to cancer, an abusive father, and one with gay thoughts.
- Played straighter at the end when all the Ugandan converts start saying "Ma ha nei bu, Eebowai", meaning "Thank you God."
- Heel-Faith Turn: Double Subversion. When Elder Price prances in during "I Believe", General Butt Fucking Naked is... unimpressed. At the end, though, when he's confronted by Elders Cunningham, Price, and the Ugandans, he relents and joins the missionaries in the final number.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Price and Cunningham by the end of the show.
- I Just Want to Have Friends: Cunningham's main wish throughout Act One, making him the woobie that he is every time he casually mentions nobody likes him or his gratitude for Elder Price, who could care less about him and finally tells him so at the end of Act One.
- "I Want" Song: "Sal Tlay Ka Siti", where Nabulungi sings about what Sal Tlay Ka Siti must be like, where "The warlords are friendly" and "there's a Red Cross on every corner."
- It's All About Me: Elder Price has a problem with this, best seen in "You And Me (But Mostly Me)".
- Large Ham: "Have you heard the story of our prophet, Arnold Cunningham, Arnold Cunningham, Arnold Cunning...HAAAA-AAALLLOOOO!!!
- Last-Second Word Swap:
- During "Hello", where at one point the singers go "So you won't burn in..." and another man belts out a "HeeeeeEEEEEEELL-OOOOOOOOOOOO!"
- In "Hasa Diga Eebowai", Mafala Hatimbi goes, "Here's the butcher, he has AIDS; here's the teacher, she has AIDS; here's the doctor, he has AIDS; here's my daughter [Nabulungi], she has AAAAAAA......wonderful disposition!"
- From an early demo version of "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream": "Down, down to Satan's realm, / That's where you shall dwell! / This is eternal, / No escape from H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks!"
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: While Star Wars is specifically named, Darth Vader and Yoda Show up in fairly crudely made costumes. There are some hobbits as well.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
Elders in the song "Two by Two": Our paths have been revealed so let's start the show!
- Letting the Air out of the Band: The band does a live version of this when we are shown just how bleak and depressing life in the African village is.
- Literal-Minded: The "golden plates" shown in "Joseph Smith American Moses" are gold-colored paper plates.
- Lyrical Dissonance: In typical Parker and Stone fashion.
- "Hasa Diga Eebowai," which has a catchy tune. Those words are repeated throughout the song. Only, we then learn that the statement is Ugandan for "Fuck you, God".
- "Turn it Off" is an even worse example: the Stepford Smiler elders have an upbeat melody to which they sing about growing up with an abusive father, a sister dying of cancer, and repressed homosexuality.
- Manchild: Elder Cunningham.
- Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: "Man Up" becomes one about half way through.
- Maybe Ever After: Cunningham and Nabulungi.
- Meaningful Echo: The line "You're making things up again" in "Hello" is echoed into its own larger song, but this time Arnold's lies lead all the Ugandans into joining the Church, drastically changing the rest of the musical.
- Mighty Whitey: Parodied in "I Am Africa," which is sung by the (very white) missionaries.
- Minor Character, Major Song: Mafala Hatimbi leads the song "Hasa Diga Eebowai" and promptly recedes into the background as the focus shifts to his daughter, Nabulungi.
- Mood Whiplash:
- Invoked by the various Elders' stories in "Turn It Off".
- Played straight when General Butt Fucking Naked arrives. We get all of two minutes to laugh at his name...before he point-blank shoots a rebellious villager, complete with blood spurting out of the villager's head.
- Played straight when Elder Price is about to be attacked by General Butt Fucking Naked, there is some humor in it, but the scene and music is overall suspenseful... then whiplash to a lighthearted, playful tune as the scene shifts to Elder Cunningham.
- Musicalis Interruptus: "All American Prophet" is momentarily interrupted by the main Running Gag of that guy who sings about having maggots in his scrotum. Notable in that it's a rare example of a song being interrupted by something else sung. (And the interrupting song fits into the previous rhyme, which is even more impressive: "Joseph never showed them / I have maggots in my scrooooohhhhhhtum")
- My Greatest Failure: Played for Laughs in "Spooky Mormon Hell Dreams" - Elder Price's is stealing a donut from his parents and blaming it on his brother when he was five years old.
- No Song for the Wicked: General Butt Fucking Naked doesn't get a song.
- No Romantic Resolution: Nabulungi never actually hooks up with Cunningham, despite having a flirtatious, subtext-heavy relationship with him.
- Oh, Crap:
- You can tell that the music does this we learn Elder Price and Elder Cunningham's mission location is..... Uganda! Yes, that Uganda. It involves a Record Needle Scratch.
- When Elder Cunningham is told by Elder Price that "Hasa Diga Eebowai" means "Fuck you, God", and realizes he's said this several times.
- When Elder Cunningham is reading the actual Book of Mormon to the Ugandans (who are bored out their minds) and gets to the part where God strikes the "wicked Lamanites" and turns their skin dark...and everyone suddenly looks up at him with death glares.
Cunningham: (nervous laughter) You know what? Let's uh...skip that part...
- Ominous Latin Chanting: Parodied during Spooky Mormon Hell Dream, in which we have "Rectus! Dominus! Spookytus! Deus! Creepytus!"
- One Thing Led to Another: Elder McKinley in "Turn it Off" has the line, "One thing led to another, and soon I would discover I was having very strange feelings for Steve."
- Opinion Changing Dream: Spooky Mormon Hell Dream. It works this way for Price, and other Elders seem to imply that it's actually a fairly common occurrence.
- Overprotective Dad: Hatimbi towards Nabulungi. From Hasa Diga Eebowai, we have the line "...She's all I have left in the world. And if either of you lays a hand on her....drumbeat I will give you my AIDS!"
- Precision F-Strike:
- Yes, even in a musical filled with the word, there's a precision strike during "Joseph Smith American Moses": "Compassion! Courtesy! Let's be really fucking polite to everyone!" (Also, arguably, "Take these fucking golden plates!")
- Also, in the middle of "I Believe", when Elder Price comes prancing into Butt Fucking Naked's headquarters, his response is "...The fuck is this?"
- At the end of the show, after constant problems during his mission, Elder Price drops his Gosh Dang It to Heck! and delivers a nice big "You know what, guys? Fuck him." "Him" in this case refers to the Mission President, who just declared the Ugandan mission disbanded in failure and disgrace thanks to Elder Cunningham's embarrassing cavalcade of Ass Pulls.
- Rage Against the Heavens: "Hasa Diga Eebowai", literally, "Fuck you, god!" as well as its Dark Reprise.
- Reconstruction: The musical ultimately becomes this about religion as a whole.
- Record Scratch: In "Two by Two".
- Red Baron: The Big Bad is called General "Butt Fucking Naked" because, in his own words, "When I kill my enemies and drink their blood, I do it butt. Fucking. Naked!"
- Rock Me, Asmodeus!: "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" has a very hard rock/metal sound, and Satan appears playing the guitar halfway through the song.
- Running Gag:
- The doctor shouting, "I have maggots in my scrotum" at very irrelevant points. Has a Triumphant Reprise to close the musical.
- Elder McKinley's Transparent Closet.
- Elder Cunningham messing up Nabulungi's name.
- Elder Cunningham's "Latter Day" puns.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: During "Man Up," Elder Price decides to abandon the mission and go to where he originally hoped to be assigned: Orlando.
- Sex as a Rite-of-Passage: "Baptize Me" parodies this, with a storm of Double Entendres.
- Share Phrase: At various points in the musical, something either will be, or is something incredible
The Doctor: Something incredible. You've done something incredible! I have never seen a rectal blockage of this kind!
- Shout-Out: Due to the show's nature as a parody, there are a lot of music shout-outs.
- "Joseph Smith American Moses" is a homage to "The Small House of Uncle Thomas" from The King and I.
- Also, "You And Me (But Mostly Me)" seems to be a parody of "The Wizard and I" from Wicked. It also has similar chords to "Defying Gravity".
- "I Believe" has an opening that parodies "I Have Confidence" from The Sound of Music.
- A chunk of "All American Prophet" has Elder Price imitating Robert Preston's sing-talking from The Music Man, while the rest of it is a shout-out to another Joseph: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
- Also in "All American Prophet," Elder Price describes Joseph Smith as having "a little Donny Osmond flair"; Osmond played Joseph in a direct-to-video film of the latter musical (and had an extended run in the role for the stage production during the 1990s). Osmond is also a Mormon.
- Cunningham, as he keeps making up entries in the titular book, tries convincing the disbelieving Ugandans, says what is essentially a cleaned-up version of Cartman's signature BS catchphrase"Eehw mahi gawd, guys, no wai!"
- Though a parody of the "I Want" Song in general, "Sal Tlay Ka Siti" seems to specifically be a parody of "Somewhere That's Green" from Little Shop of Horrors.
- "Hasa Diga Eebowai" parodies "Hakuna Matata". Elder Cunningham even asks the Ugandans, "Does it mean no worries for the rest of our days?"
- During "Hasa Diga Eebowai", when Hatimbi reaches the "aaaaaaaa ... Wonderful disposition" part of the song and describes Nabulungi, both the text and his vocal timbre become a shout-out to Les Misérables.
- During "Making Things Up Again", hobbits, Mordor, Yoda, and Boba Fett all are referenced, and one of the ghosts/voices in Elder Cunningham's head that we see in the background during the song is Uhura.
- The "Orlando" chorus in "Two by Two" and "Man Up" is a blatant shout-out to "Tomorrow" from Annie.
- "Two by Two" itself has musical similarities with "Our Time" from Merrily We Roll Along.
- Shown Their Work: The creators did their homework about Mormon theology. Then again, some artistic license was necessary.
- Show Within a Show: Joseph Smith, American Moses.
- Skyward Scream: Subverted/parodied in "Joseph Smith American Moses" when Smith dies in this version. Brigham Young goes, "DESPERATION! MORTALITY! LOSS OF FAITH! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHIIIIIIII... got the golden plates!"
- Smug Snake: Elder Price has shades of this at first.
- Stepford Smiler: The Mormons. Best displayed in the song "Turn it Off."
- Title Drop: In "Hello".
- Triumphant Reprise:
- "Hasa Diga Eebowai" is reprised as "Thank You God" during "Joseph Smith American Moses" and the reprise of "Hello."
- The already upbeat "I Believe" is briefly reprised as part of the even more optimistic "Tomorrow Is a Latter Day".
- Unfortunate Implications: In-universe: "And if I want to get [to Paradise], I just have to follow that white boy!"
- Voice Of The Devil: KEVIN PRIIIIIIIIIIIICE!!! You broke the rules, Elder... Your soul belongs to ME now! YOU NOW DWELL IN ETERNAL FLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAME!
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Elder Cunningham.
"Together, we're gonna bring lots of Africans to the church! And then my dad will finally feel proud of me, instead of just feeling stuck with me."
- Wham Line: Midway through "Hasa Diga Eebowai", all the lighting but a few spotlights abruptly cuts out and the villagers stand in a straight line across the front of the stage, point directly at the audience, and sing:
"If you don't like what we say, try living here a couple days! Watch all your friends and family die—hasa diga Eebowai!"
- Elder Price delivers an in-universe one to Elder Cunningham towards the end of Act One:
"I'M NOT YOUR BEST FRIEND, I WAS JUST STUCK WITH YOU BY THE MISSIONARY TRAINING CENTER!"
- What the Hell, Hero?, The Song: "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream"
"I can't believe Jesus called me a diiiiiiick!
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Elder Price and Nabulungi. Both end up putting on Jade-Colored Glasses during the course of the story, especially Price. They both get better though.