‘Mormon’ fails to make a convert

"The Book of Mormon" at the Pantages comes under a glaring spotlight.
(Joan Marcus)

I’d wanted to take an actual Mormon to see “The Book of Mormon,” but the closest I could come was the lovely and patient older daughter — so well scrubbed and shimmery that she looked like an Irish coin.

“Come on, Coin, let’s go to the Pantages,” I texted her.

“OK,” she said after I agreed to spring for dinner.

My daughter and I have a complicated, almost biblical relationship, so she’s the perfect sidekick for a religious-themed event. Of course, this “Book of Mormon” is a comedy, with barely a serious moment. As someone with barely a serious moment myself, it seems an epic fit.


Plus, there is something about entering the Pantages — the fussy architecture, the pre-show murmur of the crowd. And there’s that ceiling. If Michelangelo ever made waffles, that’s what the waffles would’ve looked like — deeply textured, with hints of heaven. (Must be hell to dust, though).

Fortunately, I was able to secure some seats up high, in the mezzanine, where you can almost touch that amazing ceiling with the tip of your boot. We were so far back, the stage crew asked if we’d mind working one of the spotlights.

“Happy to,” I said, channeling my inner Mormon.

“Try to keep it pointed at the stage,” the crew chief huffed.

“There’s a stage here?”

“Right in front of you, moron.”

Or, maybe he said Mormon. Could’ve been nicer about it. But what do you want for 130 bucks a seat? I mean, we’re not even union.

Yes, “The Book of Mormon” is crazy-expensive, but think of all the things you get: Cutting-edge comedy. A religious education. A night out of the house, which is always good. Especially our house, a place decorated in dust-bunnies and gin.


Now, right at the outset, I know that this is a funny, funny play because the woman behind me laughs as if she’s inhaled her own gases. I swear they bait the audience with women like this. First, they take them out and get them sloshed on appletinis, then they bring them into the theater and order them to goose-honk till they pass out. It’s just a theory, but I’m sticking with it.

Other than that, how’d you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

OK, first you need to understand that I am such an easy laugh that I’m almost slutty about it. I laugh at reruns of “Full House,” old tapes of Gerald Ford speeches, the funny way chickens eat breakfast.

I laugh at algebra. I laugh at trout.


So, I was prepared to laugh my knickers off at “The Book of Mormon,” given the accolades and slobbery reviews.

“Best musical of this century,” the New York Times gushed. “Something like a miracle.”

At this point, perhaps the play is a victim of all that, your expectations so high that it could never live up.

In the second act, I just flicked off the spotlight and decided to dissect what exactly was wrong.


“The Book of Mormon” is all punch lines, no setups. It is told mostly in song and rhyme, like a Jesse Jackson speech. For a while, I played this little game with myself where I tried to guess the next joke.

Here’s the most telling thing: In the second act, the tool next to me (not my daughter) started checking messages on his phone. Normally, this frosts my gourd, but by this point I was so bored that I welcomed the intrusion. In fact, his messages were more interesting than the play — something about “the PowerPoint presentation needing to be totally re-done before Friday or Mort was going to be seriously...” I was fascinated.

If you crossed a toothy Donny and Marie stage show with a “South Park” episode, you’d have “The Book of Mormon,” which sounds pretty fetching in theory but instead results in lines like, “Africa is nothing like ‘Lion King’!” and about a dozen sit-comy jokes about Orlando.

I mean, how does a Jewish actor playing a Mormon missionary not make me goose-honk?


Oh, well, maybe I’m becoming a comedy snob after all. I feel so out of step sometimes, though disliking something this popular can actually be exhilarating, like being thrown from a runaway bus.

Or, maybe I just need a whopping appletini.

Hold the apples. Giddy-up the gin.