Matt Stone, Trey Parker and Bobby Lopez are all trying to take a stab at their personal fascinations with Mormonism, the center of their forthcoming Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon.”
“They’re just so damn nice,” Parker says admiringly of Mormons. “They’re like, ‘You made that “Orgasmo” movie? I didn’t like that, but I appreciate that you did it.’ It’s like, Wow, I wanna feel like you dude...”
“It absolutely rekindles your faith to see the miracle that all these people believe in is shit,” Lopez says, laughing.
“It’s hard to find that fault line with them. If you go, ‘Look, I don’t respect what you believe…’ but there’s no fault line…”
Park holds his hand to his shaking head. “They’re just so damn nice.”
Parker, Stone and “Avenue Q” co-writer/composer Lopez were on hand at a rehearsal studio in Times Square last night (Jan. 31), to preview the first few numbers of “The Book of Mormon” for a couple dozen New York journalists.
This won’t be the first foray into musicals for the “South Park” creators – who’ve endeavored similarly with “Cannibal” and the “South Park Musical – The Movie” – but Stone calls this “reverent to the artform” while it tips its hat to stage productions from “Music Man” to the “Lion King.”
“The Book of Mormon” starts with a brief explanation of the religion’s American founding, to the compulsory missions of its 19-year-old followers, with a tight ensemble opener that puts the “hell” in “hello.” Enter Elder Price and Elder Cunningham (fresh-faced Broadway alum Andrew Rannells and sloppy nerdfest Josh Gad, respectively), an odd couple who have been paired up on their two-year journey to the beautiful budding valleys of… Uganda.
“He has AIDS… she has AIDS…” sings the duo’s overseas caretaker, pointing, in a upbeat African song that loosely resembles “Hakuna Matata” but boasts foreign lyrics that roughly translate into “Fuck You, God.” It’s sung shortly after Cunningham and Price’s suitcases have been stolen by local thugs and a dead donkey is dragged through their path. It ends enthusiastically with a dancing exit and the word “cunt.”
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In just a short, 20-minute preview, “The Book of Mormon” is a little unorthodox, patently offensive and despite the dire straits, very very funny.
The trio juggled which nation to set the story in, from Somalia, Haiti or even post-Katrina New Orleans, just somewhere “very different from Salt Lake City.”
“Like, Did God forget this place?” Parker explains, adding that nothing challenges one’s belief system like “the worst stuff on Earth.” Though the team is still hammering out kinks in the writing, they do plan on including the story of Joseph Smith and a moment when the two characters have their moment to “sell” their religion to their Ugandan town’s masses.
But, “It’s also really all about these two guys, like a marriage. They have a big breakup, like any romantic Broadway musical. You’re like, Oh no, are they gonna get back together?” Parker says. "We never came at this like, Let's do some Mormon bashing, because I’ve liked every Mormon I’ve ever met."
"I consider myself an atheist that admires and likes religion... [The musical] isn’t merely anti-religion, it's how religion affects people, how and why they adopt it," Stone adds.
Fans and thick-skinned Broadway adventurers can check out “The Book of Mormon” starting on opening nigh, March 24, at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in Manhattan. Previews begin Feb. 24.