If I go to hell — and the heavenly jury, that persnickety bunch of fuss budgets, is still out on that — it won’t be because of any of the Commandments. It will have nothing to do with all those pens I took from newsrooms across northern and central Ohio, or the free HBO I did not report for almost two years. It will be because of a blasphemous little number called The Book of Mormon.
Who knew that a ticket to eternal damnation would cost $159.50 plus service and handling fees? I always thought that if I stood face to face with fire and brimstone it would be because of something I did to make money not spend it. It is surprisingly easy to go straight to hell. You can print your tickets at home or pick them up at will call.
I will take full blame, since it was my decision and I pulled the trigger on the ticket purchases. It was last summer and my husband, son and I were looking for a show to take in while on a trip to New York. As expected, everyone had an opinion, but that didn’t help.
Me: What do you guys want to see? Give me an idea so I can start to narrow it down and choose.
My son: Anything but Cats.
My husband: Cats!
So it was up to me to pick something ever-so slightly Catslike without appearing at all like Cats. As a family, we were all over the board. My son had seen Hamilton on Broadway mere weeks after it opened. And he was a veteran Broadway-goer. The seven years we lived in New Jersey when he was growing up, we saw a number of shows. My husband, on the other hand, hadn’t been to Broadway since December 1983, when we saw a young Lenny Briscoe play the leading man role in 42nd Street. What to do, what to do. . . So naturally I chose the Broadway musical about Mormons, Uganda, female circumcision, child sexual abuse, and Orlando, Florida.
Except I didn’t know any of that about The Book of Mormon. I had seen the poster and a few seconds of the opening number from a Tony awards show, most of which I missed because I had to go to the bathroom.
“Did you pick this because you have a thing for guys in white dress shirts?” my husband asked, as I slipped our tickets into my suitcase.
“No . . . But kind of, well, yes,” I said. “Just shut up and pack, Mr. Pink and Purple Rainbow Shirt Guy.”
Of all the things that I didn’t know about The Book of Mormon the biggest thing was that it was written by the South Park guys. That piece of information would have come in handy.
So we go to New York, we go to the theater, we get our beverages of choice and we settle in. We watch the first half. At intermission, the house lights come up. My son strikes up a conversation with a young Australian man sitting next to us. My husband and I just sit there staring straight ahead at the closed curtain on stage.
“Well,” I said after a few beats, “should we go get another drink?”
“We are going,” my husband said, “straight to hell.”
I still didn’t know about the South Park connection until after my husband and son got up to get drinks and I had my own conversation with the Aussie.
“So,” he said, “Do you, like, watch South Park?”
Well that’s random, I thought. And then I got it. And I really began to worry. Immediately I started to mentally draw a line in the sand. If a motorized wheelchair and a burn victim show up on stage, I’m walking out, I thought.
“You guys!” I said when my husband and son came back to the seats with extra large alcoholic beverages. “Did you know this show is the South Park guys?”
My son looked at me as if I was the dumbest tool in the lightbulb box. “You mean you didn’t?”
“What does that mean? What? What??” my husband said, eyes wide.
“What it means is this is likely to get way worse,” I said. “Way, way worse.”
“Worse than — “(and here my husband started to softly sing the song that tells You Know Who to have sexual relations with Himself)
“I’m frightened. Hold me,” I said.
If our Lutheran and Catholic religious upbringings had taught us anything, it was that we were too late. We had already contributed to a mega-godless sacrilege. And well, we had already paid and didn’t have anything else planned for the rest of the night, so we might as well stay and watch the rest.
And then we might as well go ahead and buy the $20 souvenir booklet, download the soundtrack from iTunes, and then why not go online and buy tickets for our other son and his husband to see the show in Seattle; and — now we’re in deep, past the point of no return — it only makes sense two nights later to get back to our hotel room from a bar and hold our own Book of Mormon sing-a-long so raucously that the hotel desk clerk would come knocking on our door at 1:30am and ask us to keep it down.
In the room next door, someone was thinking, “They should have gone to Cats.”
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