In Los Angeles, denigrating cult figureheads generates laughs, not embassy protests

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In Los Angeles, denigrating cult figureheads generates laughs, not embassy protests

Sam and I had wanted to see the Book of Mormon Broadway show when we visited Manhattan in 2011. Due to the newness of the show at the time and the marketing blitz (this was during the campaign to win all the awards that are now listed in the show guide) we were unable to go.

On September 8th The Book of Mormon opened for a three month stint at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood.  I’ve been to several old theaters in Los Angeles that feature early 20th century archetecture.  The art nouveau and art deco periods coincided with the “golden age” of cinema in Los Angeles.  Theaters built at the time competed with each other to see who could look the most glamorous.  Theaters built in later decades pulled this design forward to connect back to Hollywood’s “tinseltown” reputation.  These places, once entered, transform into just what you imagine grand entertainment might have been presented in a century prior.  The Pantages is perhaps the most spectacular of all of them, at least that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing.  The pantages has a strict photography rule inside the theater.  Docents snap out and put their hands in front of cell phone cameras before you can click the shutter and politely remind patrons that no photography is allowed.  I didn’t bother bringing my DSLR, so I’ll post some photos below of the embellishment in the lobby as well as the even more spectacular theater.

But first, allow me to show off some of the other theaters in Los Angeles, so you can see I’m not exaggerating when I claim the area has a running theme on art deco design.  I won’t bother to list all the big ones (even our city hall has an art deco design), see this list and note how nearly ALL of the buildings are located in or around Los Angeles.  In fact, Los Angeles appears to house the largest number of art deco inspired architectural achievements in the entire united states.

Bear with me for a moment as I impersonate one of my favorite Hollywood neighbors who could probably provide a much more artistic description of the art deco virus that runs through Los Angeles.

The Hollywood bowl entrance fountain (which Sam and I have the pleasure of seeing on every trip home from Hollywood):

The Eastern Columbia Building (otherwise known as “That big green building on Wilshire with the clock”):

Griffith Park Observatory: (so obvious you didn’t realize it, eh?)  Even Optimus Prime was hip to this old Art Deco flagship.

The sunset tower:

The Orpheum is also quite fantastic inside (I saw Stars there in 2007), although it follows more of a classical European design than art deco:

The wiltern is probably the most recognizable art deco influenced musical landmark in Los Angeles.  I’ve been there many many many times:

and lastly – where we were on September 9th, The Pantages, which is far grander inside than out:

That photo above is just the lobby.  There are many more amazing photos at the photographer Matthew Kirwan’s blog (click the photo).  Below is his photo of the actual theater.

On Sunday, Sam and I sat in the middle section to the right just underneath the edge of the balcony.

Book of Mormon is a very funny and entertaining performance for the left leaning and the agnostic/atheist.  I would not presume a mormon or even a faithful christian would enjoy the bombardment so much, even though every insult fact is delivered with a smile.  Just like South Park, Matt and Trey have created something both blasphemously intense and beautifully simple.  Songs are just as memorable for their offensively honest content as their melody and witty wordplay.  Although every fact about mormonism is couched in subtle nudging humor, the writers didn’t pull any punches.  From the very beginning of the show one is informed of the ridiculousness of the origins of the mormon religion, with actors portraying the lamenites, jesus, joseph smith and so on. And, of course, the church’s position on Africans (until 1978) is noted by quoting the actual scripture to a group of Africans, much to a horrified young mission elder’s surprise.  So many beans are spilt in the show, I fear less knowledgeable audience members may suspect that, like a few of the bumbling uninformed characters in the show, much of it is a fabrication of the authors of the play and not the authors of the religion.

Moving on from simply tearing down the mormon religion, the play uses the futility of trying to explain mormon dogma to starving Africans with AIDS as a pretext to explain that all religion should be understood as merely a philosophy to comfort the presence of death around us.  Perhaps the funniest and most telling line of the play occurs in the second act when an older African woman explains to a younger one that, just like the rest of the stories the mormon’s told them, “You didn’t really think Salt Lake City was a real place, did you?  It’s just a metaphor!”

I previously held no great enthusiasm for broadway productions or opera.  Though I’ve seen very little, my most vivid previous memory is of a minimalist production of Madama Butterfly that bored me to tears.  Yes, I realize this is broadway and that was Opera.  If more broadway shows were this entertaining I might loosen up my opinion of their validity as an option in my entertainment armamentarium.  Although the Pantages isn’t close enough to walk to, we are still only a mile or two away and so a Sunday night show ending at 9:45 no longer poses a problem with bedtime obligations.

We’d bought tickets as soon as we heard the show was coming to Los Angeles.  It may have even been done through an American Express pre-sale.  This enabled us to get better seats than normal, and earlier than normal without shelling out $500 each.  It was interesting seeing the news reports and celebrity tweets about the show “opening” days after we’d already seen it.  I believe we saw the third performance in Los Angeles.

I couldn’t help but wonder if this show wouldn’t pack more of a punch in the “battleground states” of the upcoming election.  I’m doubtful many of Romney’s supporters know what Mormons actually believe, and this would be quite an eye-opener for them, reaching up under their skirts in the guise of “a show from the guys from southpark” and then leaving them with many questions to ponder before casting a vote for a man who believes there were Jews living in America 2,000 years ago and everyone rules their own private planet after death.  I wonder if it wouldn’t be cheaper for Obama’s super-PACs to just buy all the independent voters tickets to this show.  Or at least just pay to air the following video instead of attack ads:

Of course, the magical Jesus that Obama claims to believe in isn’t any less silly, but I do wonder how believing that Africans are “cursed” into your adulthood, as Mitt Romney must have, might affect your opinions and actions as a governor of people, not to mention your behavior in a political race against someone with that “cursed” lineage.  Mitt Romney was my age (31) when LDS changed their official statements about dark skinned people.

The religious radio jockeys in LA tell me though that Obama is a “faker” and is really a socialist atheist. Good God, I sure hope so.

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