While in New York, Dave and I saw the Book of Mormon musical. We both had a good time and I'm really glad we went. We really liked several of the songs and have had them stuck in our heads ever since. Some of them seem almost Road Show-esque, reminiscent of the self-deprecating humor of Mormonism (eg., "I Believe"). Others are vulgar and outrageous, not necessarily to my taste, but fitting the ironic style of the producers (humor in irreverence).
I would not recommend the show to my Mormon friends and family, and these are the reasons why [spoiler alert]:
1) Obscenity - there's lots of it.
2) Blasphemy - the whole plot is centered around making light of what some consider sacred.
3) Inaccuracy - I couldn't help but notice every inaccurate detail, and I think this might bug a lot of LDS church members (for example, the missionaries in the play were not assigned destinations until after 3 months in the MTC)
4) Non-representative main character - one of the protagonists is also a compulsive liar, and I think some would question the relevance of couching his story in a Mormon context (since I think I can safely say that most missionaries are not compulsive liars).
5) Criticism of Mormon Culture - in my experience, Mormons are quick to make fun of themselves, but irked when the jokes come from outsiders.
6) Criticism of Mormon Theology - I believe this would be disheartening to Mormons, and considered as casting pearls before swine.
Any one of the above reasons would have been enough to put me off only three years ago. Yet, as an ex-Mormon, I found the production to be meaningful and thought-provoking. And these are my reasons why:
1) The protagonist was relevant as a type of Joseph Smith.
2) I believe in the validity and value of multiple perspectives.
We can talk until we're blue in the face about how we want people to see us. But at the end of the day, how others perceive us is out of our hands.
The Book of Mormon musical does not portray Mormons how they see themselves and it definitely does not portray them how they want to be seen. Instead, it is a portrayal by outsiders of how they see Mormons. Regardless of its favorableness, it is a valid perspective (if it weren't, the LDS church wouldn't concern itself with public relations).
And that's also why semantics and accurate details (see #3 above) are not critical to the success of the production - it's an extended Mormon joke, not a documentary.
3) Through humor and caricature, the musical identifies several real issues that exist in Mormonism. These include:
*familial/social pressure to conform/achieve
*excessive and/or misplaced guilt
*disconnect between teachings/practices
*environment that claims to promote humility but rewards charm, charisma, and leadership
I do not think any of these issues is unique to Mormonism, but I do think they deserve attention within the Mormon context.
Overall, I think the producers did a fantastic job. They provided a valid perspective, using comedy to provide meaningful insights. The story is not my favorite, but it was an appropriate metaphor. I didn't love the obscenity and vulgarity, but the music/lyrics are fantastic and I will be acquiring the sheet music sometime soon.