Five Golden Plates

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This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theater for KCRW.

On my way out of the The Book of Mormon - which by the way you should really go see if you can get a's wonderful...

So I'm on my way out of the theater and right there on Hollywood Boulevard in front of the Pantages is a burning bush. Well, not really a bush, more of a shrub and it's sort of animated. You know - like on South Park?

Anyway, this shrub is burning and through the flames I can see these plates, these five golden plates. So like a good theater critic, I douse the fire.

- And rescue these golden tablets. Written on them in an ancient font - Times New Roman, I think - is "The Five Commandments of The Book of Mormon." Then smaller, below is "the secrets to making a musical in the 21st century."

It's not often you're given a divine directive - especially as a critic - so dutifully I'll share these sacred messages:

First, 'Take Care of Your History.' It is not enough to simply make reference to the great musicals that have come before. You must show reverence for the style. You must honor the spirit. And yea - you must subvert it whenever possible.

As it is written, so was it performed.

Second, 'Take Care of Your Story.' Give to each character an arc and a theme. Give unto each a moment of doubt. a dream, and a moment of revelation. Let not your actors mock their roles - however absurd they may be - for there lies the cheap and insincere laugh. Instead, let them commit to the truly subversive and divine.

As it is written, so was it performed.

Third, 'Take Care of Your Pop Cultural References.' Ye know from your many season's of South Park tis not enough to simply drop names to seem current. Ye must understand the iconography and use it to further the story and reveal the folly of the dogmatic wherever they be.

As it is written, so was it performed.

Fourth, 'Be Ye Not Afraid of Repetition for It Is Manna to Your Audience.' It be not enough to simply repeat but ye must repeat and weave the themes of each character to remind us how they've changed since we heard from them last. Be ye not afraid of repeating your framing devices.

And - lo they did.

And last on the fifth plate, 'Take Care of Your Audience.' Know they are not the musical theater audience of the golden era - as much as they might listen to the cast albums. Know your audience comes not to belief as easily. They are jaded - though their hearts be good. You must seduce them into caring. You must shock them with your bawdy language and comic divination - but never with malice. Treat the people to virtuosity, laughter, and insight and they will reward you plentifully.

And lo . . . they did.

The Book of Mormon plays at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood through November 25.

This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theater for KCRW.

(Running time 2 hours 45 minutes with an intermission.)

Banner image: © Joan Marcus 2012