Collider Previews Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s New Musical THE BOOK OF MORMON

     February 1, 2011


Comedic masterminds Trey Parker and Matt Stone aren’t strangers to the musical world – along with their debut film Cannibal: The Musical and the many catchy tunes of South Park, they also crafted one of the greatest movie musicals of all time: South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. Few artisans posses the ability to blend showtunes and scatological humor with such ease.

Now, the duo is taking their passion for musical satire to the Great White Way, launching their first Broadway show with a subject matter of which they are quite familiar. The Book of Mormon, written by Parker, Stone and Avenue Q co-writer Robert Lopez, tells the tale of two Mormon missionaries who travel to Uganda to convert the locals. Of course, it’s dirty as all hell.

A full run-down of the first 25 minutes of the show and a few of Parker and Stone’s thoughts, after the jump.

the-book-of-mormon-poster-01Don’t let the swear words and R-rated attitude fool you – The Book of Mormon is a traditional song-and-dance musical, the opening 25 minutes on par (and occasionally spoofing) Wicked, The Lion King and old school tuners like The Music Man. The opening number sets the stage with a quickie lesson in Mormon history leading to a group of young Mormon boys preparing to head off on their missions. The version we saw was sparse on sets, costumes and props, but watching religious soldiers ring doorbells and give their spiels has never rocked harder.

The setup leads introduces us to the two main characters: Elder Price, a strapping young Mormon lad eager to dive into the exciting world of missionary work, and Elder Cunningham, a bumbling, Jack Black-type twit, played by Josh Gad, who recently appeared alongside Jake Gyllenhaal in Love and Other Drugs. Price dreams of a perfect life in Orlando, Florida, while Cunningham is in need of a donut and a friend, but the two are quickly partnered up and shipped to the chaotic African land of Uganda. Price finds the silver lining with a show-stopper titled “You and Me (But Mostly Me)” in which he dreams of his near future.

Parker, Stone and Lopez layer on a bit of social commentary when the two arrive in Uganda, filling the set with impoverished Ugandans, dead donkeys, runaway chickens and accompanying it all with a musical lick reminiscent of Lion King. The boys arrive to the village and find themselves held at gunpoint by AK-47-wielding criminals. The other locals explain that that’s the cost of living and burst out into a Hakuna Matata-esque tribal song that literally translates to “Fuck You, God,” an ideology that worries the young missionaries and sets in motion the show’s main plot. Parker and Stone find a way to work in unmentionable lady parts and AIDS jokes for good measure, and as a rough whole, it kills.

trey_parker_matt_stoneAfter the preview, Parker, Stone and Lopez sat down to elaborate on their baby. Apparently, it took a chance meeting at a marionette performance for the three to meet and realize their common interest in the story of Mormonism founder Joseph Smith. It took them six years to finally realize the show, but the process couldn’t have been more enjoyable. Lopez, who was a big fan of South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, found it easy to integrate himself into the duo’s collaborative process. “I was used to writing and re-writing, but these guys, because of South Park, shoot out ideas and make them work later.”

Parker and Stone have been integrating the Mormon religion into their work since the beginning of their careers – but why? “They’re so damn nice,” says Parker. The duo explains that the show isn’t out to bash Mormons, but to use them as a lens to look at all religions. Mormonism is one of the fastest growing religions in the world, and it only began in the 1800s – it fascinates them. Lopez mentions that a Mormon friend his came by a workshop of the show: “He said, ‘you could be doing more of this! And include this!’” The creative team isn’t worried about Mormons, Stone adding, “I think most people who stay through the end will see a point.”

And that’s what defines their comedy. Beyond foul language and shock-you plot points (of which there will be many), Parker and Stone have always been about giving their material meaning, and The Book of Mormon should deliver on all fronts.

The Book of Mormon begins previews on February 24 and opens March 24.

  • IllusionOfLife

    I’m not Mormon, and if this musical is half as good as the South Park Episode “All About the Mormons” it’ll be brilliant.

    That being said, I do live in Utah, so I know my fair share about the religion purely through osmosis, and the founder of Mormonism is, in fact *Joseph* Smith, not John.

    Sorry to be nitpicky.

    • Sensibly_stupid

      hi dude i dont know if you have listened to it but he is called joseph smith in the play…..

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  • SaltyNuts

    I don’t see any meaning in South Park. Unless taking mean spirited potshots at easy pop culture targets is meaning. Those guys are pricks and their ‘comedy’ is easy.

    • dogspunchingkittens

      South Park is littered with social commentary, it’s the central focus of the show. They just use a medium most folks aren’t used to for getting their message out. Some folks don’t want to hear talking heads on CNN and would rather watch something like South Park to get their dose of opinion. To say that it isn’t a social commentary infused television show is just silly.

    • kittenspunchingdogs

      I don’t know how you can say “Book Of Mormon” is mean-spirited without (1) having seen the actual production or (2) having read Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s comments.

      Prejudice is prejudice.

      See the production first, to the end, and THEN comment.

      (FWIW, I have read the Book Of Mormon, as well as many of the reviews, and quite frankly I think a lot of Mormons will be just fine with the musical especially if they take the teachings from the Book of Nehemiah to heart.)

  • Dave

    As a Mormon, I’m not happy about this. I think most Mormons are savvy enough to get social commentary and satire and to know they aren’t immune to it. In fact, we’ve produced our fair share of self-satire. But this just seems like it’s pushing too far. It sounds like it takes everything that Mormons consider important and sacred and treats it like garbage. It sounds like they’re spitting on a faith and then saying that it’s OK, because, hey, they have a point to make. That’s not cool, and it’s not classy.

    That said, maybe this well get people interested enough to find out what they Mormons actually believe. Stone and Parker are right: we are really nice, and the religion is more than interesting.

    • Amac

      As a mormon as well, i find this inoffensive and a potentially hilariously funny satire of mormon culture. I think we’re all aware these characters exist in small amounts in the church, and to see them on stage will probably be pretty enlightening to say the least. i’m down.

      • Melissa

        While we are at it, I’m a Mormon, and I am somewhere in the middle. I don’t necessarily like the musical, but some of the songs are well written, and hey! It’s sparking interest in some peoples minds and people are asking more about the church. I think lets look on the bright side. More missionary work ;)

  • Rockslide

    I think Dave said it well. I don’t fully understand Stone and Parker’s love/hate relationship with Mormons. You can’t say you respect a person on one hand and then stab them with the other. I don’t agree with flat out mockery of anyone’s faith. Everyone is free to their own opinion and speech but things like this are erosive and degrading to society as a whole.

  • Justin

    Mormon Satan is gonna be MAD!

  • Jasper

    Pretty sure Mormon’s Satan is everybody’s Satan…

    • Rob

      Ha Ha!! Mormon satan should actually love it, it’s the mormon jesus that will be mad!!! ha ha ha!!!

  • DaveP.

    I am a mormon, I live in California, and work in the film business. To be honest, after Prop 8, we diserve a little ribbing, and I am actually glad it comes from these two. I guarantee you this show will contain more truths about who we are and what we believe than the documentary “The Mormon Proposition.”
    These two may find us strange, and I don’t blame them, but every time they have brought their opinions about Mormons onto the screen, they have done so with a wink and a smile.
    I actually thought their Mormon episode of South Park was complimentary in their weird way. If you watch it to the end, and the little Mormon boys says something along the lines of “I don’t care what you believe, the Book of Mormon has brought me happiness, so suck my balls.” I couldn’t have put it better myself. In my opinion, it is an honor to get so much attention from two of the greatest satirists of our time.

  • Akuna

    This is the start of a new genre; Hate Comedy. The meaning that will be taken from the play will be that it’s OK to shit on anything or anyone, as long as it’s an attempt at humor. If Hitler only had a better joke writer, I would be typing this in German. hahahhhaaahahhahhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

    • Tim

      Comedy has to know no bounds. If we say its not okay to make fun of certain things it immediately cheapens everything that is deemed “permissible” to mock. Placing things on pedestals is the root of hurt feelings. If all restraints were taken off of comedy, it would actually become possible for people to take a joke with out getting offended.

      If I made a joke about Christians right now, a Christian reading this may get offended. But they wouldn’t be offended if I made a joke about Judaism. The reason for that is because subconsciously, there’s a “why me” mentality every time a joke hits a little too close to home. Nobody would be asking “why me” if it was understood that everything is fair game.

      More to the point, there’s a serious difference between hate and simply having some fun with a subject. You should take life less seriously.

  • Julie

    I am Mormon and a professional actress/singer. I have mixed feelings about the two people who are not LDS, who have written a satire musical, about my sacred religion. I am sure they are not wanting popularity votes from the LDS community or approval for that matter, but who’s goal is money driven.

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  • Jennifer

    I am Mormon. I also am able to let people have free will to say and do as they please. I am also able to form my own ideas about God outside of a musical/cartoon. I also believe the LDS Church preaches to not judge, nor take personally the opinions of others. We are not a cult nor a natzi nation that denys mankind freedom — so offended lds people .. grow up and exercize your faith in god, and learn to let go and let god .. and let the world see why we really are so happly we are about to break into song at any given momnet. That is funny !!!! Let Trey and Matt poke fun at us ….. their road is their own … they have a right to live it as such!!!!

  • Steven

    One way you try to put down someone is to make fun of them and take out of context things you dislike. The Mormons have been a positive influence on our society and that is what bugs the creators most. Go ahead and make fun of them and see the results. I read the reviews, and did not get angry. Instead, it makes us refocus our faith. Like the Musical, “Jesus Christ, Superstar,” when you make fun of the Holy things it has the opposite effect. I love that musical as praising Christianity. Although I will never watch this unless I get a cleaned up version, it will have the same effect to spread the Gospel whenever you attack it. Praise be to the Lord and all his servants, as we will weather this any any storm the powers of darkness try to give us. Yes, I am LDS.

    • Melissa

      That’s the whole thing though. While it is a comedy, they aren’t necessarily putting the church in a bad light. They are focused on religion as a whole, and merely use us as a focus point. And while I do have some issues with the musical, there are a whole bunch of people who have an interest in the Book of Mormon now. Did you see the church’s statement on the Musical?

  • Samuel

    I’m LDS and while agree with what has been said already about the reality and need for freedom of speech. I have to admit that I too have mixed feelings regarding this musical. True it’s difficult for me to say much by way of opinion as I have never watched South Park or anything else published by these creators, but I’ve heard enough to be wary.
    Honestly, I think the musical has potential to be beneficial and inspiring to the membership of the church and to those of other faiths to understand better in a less-demeaning way than we are typically used to. I just am not sure yet whether that will be the case or not.
    I do hope to be able to see this presentation of mormons and mormonism, especially since my college research project is about the scope and impact of the book of mormon (could not have done this at a better time) and simple scholastic curiosity makes this a must see in and of itself.

  • Alex

    I guess that the authors are incredibly smart with a choice of a target after crapping in their pants when they tried to do the same with Muslim Faith.

  • Adam

    Honestly, I think this musical could bring more people to the Mormon church. The musical is funny, but has peaked the interest of myself into reading the book of Mormon. Who knows, maybe it will change my life.

    • Melissa

      If you do end up reading it and you have any questions, lots of people would be willing to answer. It is a great book to read anyways. I really hope you do get to read it. :)

  • peaches

    Where are the pics of Lopez?

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  • jimbo

    I’m not a morman, infact im an atheist and i find south park hilarious. And after doing my research on mormons and reading their comment’s im kinda jealous of them, able to be happy and believe in something so much that improves there lives, being able to not get so pissed off about something that takes the piss out of their belives and not get too offended by it, is’s just awesome, fair play and godspeed to you guys. Just wish i could have such an open mind^^

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