Ben Brantley is a theater critic for the New York Times, and his review of the hit “Book of Mormon” is a lot of fun to read.
For me, most of the time, negative reviews are more entertaining to read. Wouldn’t you rather hear some snobby critic savage something with cleverly chosen words than hear about how something is just “good” or “great?” I usually would, but Brantley manages to make praise very entertaining.
This is to all the doubters and deniers out there, the ones who say that heaven on Broadway does not exist, that it’s only some myth our ancestors dreamed up. I am here to report that a newborn, old-fashioned, pleasure-giving musical has arrived at the Eugene O’Neill Theater, the kind our grandparents told us left them walking on air if not on water. So hie thee hence, nonbelievers (and believers too), to “The Book of Mormon,” and feast upon its sweetness.
For those who know “Book of Mormon,” this introduction to the review sounds like a lot of the dialogue in the actual show, and the religious fervor is kind of a clever joke.
This review gives a fairly detailed plot description, as opposed to a lot of movie reviews I read that try to sum up the whole thing in one or two sentences. Brantley devotes a full paragraph to describing the plot, which allows for a lot more analysis. The reader has a better picture of both the show and Brantley’s opinion about it because they have more context.
Since people reading reviews for Broadway shows are probably likely to know about other Broadway shows, Brantley includes many comparisons like “The Lion King,” “The King and I,” and “The Producers” to give fans an idea of what they means in terms that they’re already familiar with.
What I really like is Brantley’s analysis. He goes far beyond” “the singing was good” or “it was funny” to really look at the message and theme of “Book of Mormon”:
But a major point of “The Book of Mormon” is that when looked at from a certain angle, all the forms of mythology and ritual that allow us to walk through the shadows of daily life and death are, on some level, absurd; that’s what makes them so valiant and glorious. And by the way, that includes the religion of the musical, which lends ecstatic shape and symmetry to a world that often feels overwhelmingly formless.
Reviews like these make me much more interested in seeing the show than just a simple gut reaction on the part of the reviewer.