The Book of Mormon (musical)

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The Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon poster.jpg
Official poster of the original Broadway production
Music Trey Parker
Robert Lopez
Matt Stone
Lyrics Trey Parker
Robert Lopez
Matt Stone
Book Trey Parker
Robert Lopez
Matt Stone
Productions 2011 Broadway
2012 First U.S. tour
2012 Chicago
2013 West End
2013 Second U.S. tour
Awards Tony Award for Best Musical
Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical
Tony Award for Best Original Score
New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical
Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Broadway Musical
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical
Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album
Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical

The Book of Mormon is a religious satire musical with book, lyrics, and music by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone.[1] Best known for creating the animated comedy South Park, Parker and Stone co-created the music with Lopez, a co-composer/co-lyricist of Avenue Q. The Book of Mormon tells the story of two young Mormon missionaries sent to a remote village in northern Uganda, where a brutal warlord is threatening the local population. Naïve and optimistic, the two missionaries try to share the Book of Mormon, one of their scriptures—which only one of them has read—but have trouble connecting with the locals, who are more worried about war, famine, poverty, and AIDS than about religion.[2]

Development on the musical began in 2003, with the trio meeting sporadically to work on the musical for several years. Parker and Stone grew up in Colorado, and references to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had been commonplace in their previous works. For research, the trio took a trip to Salt Lake City to meet with current and former Mormon missionaries. Developmental workshops were staged beginning in 2008. The show's producer, Scott Rudin, opted to open the show directly on Broadway. The LDS Church issued a polite, measured response to the musical, and purchased advertising space in its playbill in later runs.

After nearly seven years of development, the show opened on Broadway in March 2011. The Book of Mormon garnered overwhelmingly positive critical response, and set records in ticket sales for the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. The show was awarded nine Tony Awards, one of which was for Best Musical, and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. The original Broadway cast recording became the highest-charting Broadway cast album in over four decades, reaching number three on the Billboard charts. It premiered in the West End in 2013, and has staged two national tours. Plans for a film adaption are underway.

History[edit]

The Book of Mormon was conceived by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone. Both Parker and Stone grew up in Colorado, and were somewhat familiar with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and its members.[3] Parker had an extensive background in music before meeting Stone; in high school, he was in the chorus of a community theater production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and was piano player for the chorus as well as president of Choir Counsel. He also performed in productions of Grease and Flower Drum Song, and helped build the set for the community theater production of Little Shop of Horrors.[4][5] The writers became friends at the University of Colorado at Boulder. At the college, they collaborated on a musical film, Cannibal! The Musical (1993), their first experience with movie musicals.[6] In 1997, they created the TV series South Park for Comedy Central and the 1999 musical film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.[7] The two had first thought of a fictionalized Joseph Smith, religious leader and founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, while working on an aborted Fox series about historical characters.[3] Their 1998 film, Orgazmo, and the 2003 episode "All About Mormons" of South Park both gave comic treatment to Mormonism.[6]

During the summer of 2003, Parker and Stone flew to New York City to discuss the script of their new film, Team America: World Police, with friend and producer Scott Rudin (who also produced South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut).[3][8] Rudin advised the duo to see the musical Avenue Q on Broadway, finding the cast of marionettes in Team America similar to the puppets of Avenue Q.[8] Parker and Stone went to see the production during that summer and the writer-composers of Avenue Q, Lopez and Jeff Marx noticed them in the audience and introduced themselves. Lopez revealed that South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut was highly influential in the creation of Avenue Q.[8] The quartet went for drinks afterwards, and soon found that each camp wanted to write something involving Joseph Smith.[3] The four began working out details nearly immediately, with the idea to create a modern story formulated early on.[3] For research purposes, the quartet took a field trip to Salt Lake City where they "interviewed a bunch of missionaries—or ex-missionaries."[9] They had to work around Parker and Stone's South Park schedule.[6][10] In 2006, Parker and Stone flew to London where they spent three weeks with Lopez, who was working on the West End production of Avenue Q. There, the three wrote "four or five songs" and came up with the basic idea of the story. After fighting between Parker and Marx, who felt like he wasn't getting enough creative control, Marx was separated from the project.[11] For the next few years, the remaining trio met frequently to develop what they initially called The Book of Mormon: The Musical of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "There was a lot of hopping back and forth between L.A. and New York," Parker recalled.[3]

Lopez pushed for the stage, and his partners concurred. Lopez prodded them to take the project a step further and "workshop" it, which baffled Parker and Stone, clueless about what he meant.[3] Developmental workshops were directed by Jason Moore, and starred Cheyenne Jackson.[12] Other actors in readings included Benjamin Walker and Daniel Reichard.[13] The crew embarked on the first of a half-dozen workshops that would take place during the next four years, ranging from 30-minute mini-performances for family and friends to much larger-scale renderings of the embryonic show. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money, still unconvinced they would take it any further.[3] In February 2008, a fully staged reading starred Walker and Josh Gad as Elders Price and Cunningham, respectively.[13] Moore was originally set to direct, but left the production in June 2010.[13] Other directors, including James Lapine, were optioned to join the creative team, but the producers recruited Casey Nicholaw.[13] A final five-week workshop took place in August 2010, when Nicholaw came on board as choreographer and co-director with Parker.[3]

Rudin was named as the producer of the show.[14] Originally, Rudin planned to stage The Book of Mormon off-Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop in Summer 2010, but opted to premiere it directly on Broadway, "[s]ince the guys [Parker and Stone] work best when the stakes are highest."[13] Rudin booked the Eugene O'Neill Theatre and hired key players while sets were designed and built.[3] Rudin expected the production to cost $11 million, but it came in under budget at $9 million.[13] Hundreds of actors auditioned and 28 were cast. When a rehearsal space was found, the work of producing a full-blown musical got under way.[3] Parker and Stone, along with their families, decamped from Los Angeles to New York City shortly after the completion of South Park's fourteenth season in November 2010. The cast and crew then frantically delved into rewrites and rehearsals. The crew did four weeks of rehearsals, with an additional two weeks of technical rehearsals, and then went directly into previews. The producers first heard the musical with the full pit six days before the first paying audience.[3]

Productions[edit]

Broadway (2011–)[edit]

The Eugene O'Neill Theatre several months after the musical's launch.

The Book of Mormon premiered on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on March 24, 2011, following previews since February 24.[15][16] The production is choreographed by Casey Nicholaw and co-directed by Nicholaw and Parker. Set design is by Scott Pask, with costumes by Ann Roth, lighting by Brian MacDevitt, and sound by Brian Ronan. Orchestrations are co-created by Larry Hochman and the show's musical director and vocal arranger Stephen Oremus.[17] The production was originally headlined by Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells in the two leading roles.[17]

On April 25, 2011, the producers confirmed that "counterfeit tickets to the Broadway production had been sold to and presented by theatergoers on at least five different occasions". An article in The New York Times reported, "In each case, the tickets were purchased on Craigslist, and while a single seller is suspected, the ticket purchases have taken place in different locations each time. ... [T]he production’s management and Jujamcyn Theaters, which operates the O’Neill, had notified the New York Police Department".[18]

The New York production of The Book of Mormon employed an innovative pricing strategy, similar to the ones used in the airline and hotel industries. The producers have been able to charge as much as $477 for the best seats for performances with particularly high demand.[19] The strategy paid off handsomely. During its first year, the show was consistently one of the top five best-selling shows on Broadway and set 22 new weekly sales records for the Eugene O'Neill Theater. For the week of Thanksgiving 2011, the average paid admission was over $170 even though the highest priced regular seat was listed at $155.[20] High attendance coupled with aggressive pricing allowed the financial backers to recoup their investment of $11.4 million after just nine months of performances.[21]

After Gad's departure in June 2012, standby Jared Gertner played the role, until June 26 when Cale Krise permanently took over. In the same month (June 2012), original star Rannells was replaced by his standby Nic Rouleau. The same day, Samantha Marie Ware played Nabulungi on Broadway as the start of a 6-week engagement (James was shooting a film) in preparation for her tour performance.[22] Following Rouleau's departure in November 2012, the role of Elder Price was taken over by Matt Doyle.[23] In December 2012, Jon Bass joined as Elder Cunningham. Original cast member Rory O'Malley was replaced by Matt Loehr in January 2013. In April 2013, Stanley Wayne Mathis joined the cast as Mafala Hatimbi. In May 2013, Jon Bass left the role of Elder Cunningham, and was replaced by Cody Jamison Strand.

First U.S. national tour (2012–)[edit]

The first North American tour began previews on August 14, 2012 at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in Denver, Colorado, before moving to the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles beginning September 5, with the official opening night for the tour on September 12. Originally planned to begin in December 2012, production was pushed forward four months.[24] Gavin Creel (Price) and Jared Gertner (Cunningham) led the cast[25] until late December when West End performer Mark Evans and Christopher John O'Neill took over, allowing time for Creel and Gertner to begin rehearsals.

Chicago (2012–2013)[edit]

The first replica sit-down production, separate from the tour, began previews on December 11, 2012, and officially opened on December 19, 2012, at the Bank of America Theatre in Chicago, Illinois as part of Broadway in Chicago. The limited engagement closed October 6, 2013 and became the second U.S. national tour.[26][27][28] The cast includes Nic Rouleau in the role of Price, along with Ben Platt as Cunningham.[29]

West End (2013–)[edit]

A UK production debuted in the West End on February 25, 2013 at the Prince of Wales Theatre.[30] Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner reprised their North American tour performances.[31] The London cast members hosted a gala performance of the new musical on March 13, 2013, raising £200,000 for the British charity Comic Relief's Red Nose Day.[32] A typical London performance runs two hours and 30 minutes,[33] including one interval of 15 minutes.[34] In March 2014 The Book of Mormon was voted Funniest West End Show as part of the 2014 West End Frame Awards.[35]

Second U.S. national tour (2013–)[edit]

After the Chicago production closed on October 6, 2013, the same production is touring the U.S. David Larsen succeeded Nic Rouleau as Elder Price. A.J. Holmes succeeded Ben Platt as Elder Cunningham. Cody Jamison Strand then succeeded A.J. Holmes in the role.[36]

As part of the tour, the musical will be performed in Salt Lake City for the first time in June 2015.

Synopsis[edit]

Act I[edit]

At LDS Church Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, a devout, handsome, supercilious missionary-to-be, Elder Kevin Price, leads his classmates in a demonstration of the door-to-door attempt to convert people to Mormonism ("Hello!"). One of the missionaries, Elder Arnold Cunningham, is an insecure, incorrigible nerd and a compulsive liar who is completely hopeless at sticking to the approved dialogue. Price believes if he prays enough, he will be sent to Orlando, Florida for his two-year mission, but to his shock he and Cunningham are sent to Uganda as a pair ("Two By Two"). After saying goodbye to their families, the elders board a plane at the Salt Lake City airport. Price is sure he's destined to do something incredible (on his own), while Cunningham is just happy to have a best friend – one he met just the previous day and who, due to mission rule #72, literally cannot leave him alone except to go to the bathroom ("You And Me (But Mostly Me)").

Immediately upon arrival in northern Uganda, the two are robbed at gunpoint by soldiers of a local warlord, General Butt-Fucking Naked (an allusion to the real General Butt Naked). They are welcomed to the village by the chief, Mafala Hatimbi, and a group of villagers share their daily realities of living in appalling conditions of famine, poverty and AIDS, while being ruled by Butt-Fucking Naked, who is despotic, murderous, and obsessed with female circumcision. To make their lives seem better, the villagers constantly repeat the phrase "hasa diga eebowai" and sing to the tune of a song ("Hasa Diga Eebowai") composed around that phrase. Price and Cunningham join them in the song but are horrified to find out "hasa diga eebowai" translates to "Fuck you, God" and the villagers constantly blaspheme to cheer themselves up.

Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, left defeated and mortified, are led to their living quarters by Nabulungi, Hatimbi's daughter, where they meet the fellow missionaries stationed in the area, who have been unable to convert anyone to Mormonism. Elder McKinley, the district leader, teaches Price and Cunningham a widely accepted method of dealing with the negative and upsetting feelings brought on by the challenges of Mormon life (including McKinley's own repressed homosexual thoughts), inviting them to "turn it off like a light switch" ("Turn It Off"). The others agree their feelings must be hidden at all costs. Though Price is riddled with anxiety, Cunningham reassures him he will succeed in bringing the native Ugandans to the church ("I Am Here for You").

Price is certain he can succeed where the other Mormon elders have failed, teaching the villagers about Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS Church through a song that begins as a tribute to Smith but eventually descends into a tribute by Price to himself ("All-American Prophet"). The villagers do not show any interest in the slightest as they find religion useless and Price arrogant and annoying. Shortly after Price's attempt to dazzle the villagers, General Butt-Fucking-Naked arrives and announces his demand for the circumcision of all female villagers by week's end (as his paranoia has led him to believe that all of the clitorises in the village will "power up" and destroy him). After a villager protests, the general executes him without warning, spattering Price with blood. Safely hiding back at home, Nabulungi, moved by Price's promise of an earthly paradise, dreams of a better life in a new land ("Sal Tlay Ka Siti").

At the mission headquarters, Elder McKinley flies into a panic after he receives a message saying the Mission President has requested a full progress report on their utterly unsuccessful mission and his anxiety is only worsened after he learns of Price and Cunningham's failure. Shocked by the execution and dark reality of Africa, Price decides to abandon his mission and requests for transfer to Orlando while Cunningham, ever loyal, assures Price he'll follow him anywhere ("I Am Here For You [Reprise]"). However, Price unceremoniously dumps him as mission companion. Cunningham is crushed and alone, but when Nabulungi comes to him, wanting to learn more about the Book of Mormon and having convinced the villagers to listen to him, Cunningham finds the courage to take control of the situation for the first time in his life ("Man Up").

Act II[edit]

Cunningham has never actually read the Book of Mormon, so when his audience begins to get frustrated and leave, he quickly makes up stories by combining what he knows of Mormon doctrines with bits and pieces of science fiction. Cunningham's creative stories relate to the problems of living in a war-torn Uganda, which gets the people listening. Cunningham's conscience (personified by his father, Joseph Smith, hobbits, Lt. Uhura, Darth Vader, and Yoda) admonishes him, but he rationalizes that if it is to help people, it surely can't be wrong ("Making Things Up Again").

Price joyfully arrives in Orlando but then realizes that he has no memory of getting there and that he is dreaming. He reflects on the misdemeanor he committed in his childhood - blaming the theft of a donut on his brother, Jack. He is reminded of the nightmares of hell he had as a child and flies into a panic when his nightmare begins once again ("Spooky Mormon Hell Dream"). In his dream Price is plunged into hell, where he is tortured by demons, Lucifer, the spirits of Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, Genghis Khan and Johnnie Cochran, and dancing cups of coffee.

Price awakens from his nightmare and, terror stricken, decides to re-commit to his mission (to the complete lack of surprise of the other elders, who have all had the hell dream too.) Cunningham arrives and announces ten eager Ugandans are interested in the church, but still stung by Price's rejection, he is unwilling to let Price back into his life. McKinley points out that unless the general is dealt with, no one will convert. Price, seeing the chance to prove his worth, is inspired and sets off on the "mission he was born to do". After re-affirming his faith, he confronts the general with the Book of Mormon in hand, determined to convert him ("I Believe"). Price is next seen in a doctor's office, having the Book of Mormon removed from his rectum.

Cunningham concludes his preaching and the villagers are enchanted; they are baptized and accept Mormonism, with Nabulungi and Cunningham sharing a tender moment as they do ("Baptize Me"). The Mormon missionaries feel oneness with the people of Uganda, and celebrate ("I Am Africa"). Meanwhile, the general hears of the villagers' conversion, and fearing that the Mormons will "power up their clitorises" to destroy him, he resolves to kill them all.

Price drowns his sorrows in numerous cups of coffee at a café in Kitguli, where Cunningham finds him. He tells the bitter Price they need to – at least – act like mission companions, as the Mission President and other senior Mormon leaders are coming to visit the Ugandan mission team to congratulate them on their progress. After Cunningham leaves, Price bitterly reflects over all the broken promises the Church, his parents, his friends and life in general made to him ("Orlando").

At the celebration, Price and Cunningham are singled out as the most successful missionaries in all Africa. Shortly thereafter, Nabulungi and the villagers burst in, and ask to perform a pageant to "honor [them] with the story of Joseph Smith, the American Moses" ("Joseph Smith American Moses"), which reflects the distortions of standard Mormon doctrine and embellishments put forth by Cunningham, which include Joseph Smith having sex with frogs to cure his AIDS, 'Great Wizard' Moroni coming down from Starship Enterprise, and Smith dying of dysentery. The Mission President is appalled, ordering all the missionaries to go home, and telling Nabulungi she and her fellow villagers are not Mormons. Nabulungi, heartbroken at the thought that she will never reach paradise, curses God for forsaking her ("Hasa Diga Eebowai [Reprise]"). Cunningham is distraught at his failure, but Price has had an epiphany and realizes Cunningham was right all along; though scriptures are important, what's more important is getting the message across. Reconciled, they race off to rescue Nabulungi and the villagers from the general.

Still angry at Cunningham, Nabulungi tells the villagers he was eaten by lions when they ask of his whereabouts. The general arrives, and Nabulungi is ready to submit to him, telling the villagers that the stories Cunningham told them aren't true. To her shock, they respond that they have always known that the stories were metaphors rather than being literally true. Cunningham returns, making everyone believe that he had "risen" after being eaten by lions. Price and Cunningham then drive the general away, telling him he can't hurt the "undead"; along with the threat that they would use the power of Christ to turn him into a lesbian (as the general fears the clitoris). The missionaries are set to depart when Price offers them that since they came to the village to help people, they can still do so even having been excommunicated. Price rallies everyone – the Mormons and the Ugandans — to work together to make this their paradise planet, because, after all, they are all Latter-Day Saints. Later, the newly minted Ugandan elders (including the newly converted general) go door to door (or rather mud hut to mud hut) to evangelize "The Book of Arnold." ("Tomorrow Is a Latter Day"/"Hello! (Reprise)"/"Finale").

Music[edit]

Musical numbers[edit]

† This song is omitted from the cast album.

†† Compiled as part of "Tomorrow Is a Latter Day" on the cast album.

Instrumentation[edit]

The Book of Mormon uses a nine-member orchestra:[37][38]

Original Broadway cast recording[edit]

A cast recording of the original Broadway production was released on May 17, 2011, by Ghostlight Records. All of the songs featured on stage are present on the recording with the exception of "Orlando" and "You and Me (But Mostly Me)" (Reprise). "Hello" (Reprise) and "Finale" are attached to the end of the last track of the CD, titled, "Tomorrow Is a Latter Day". A free preview of the entire recording was released on NPR starting on May 9, 2011.[39][40][41] Excerpts from the cast recording are featured in an extended Fresh Air interview.[9]

During its first week of its iTunes Store release, the recording "has become the fastest-selling Broadway cast album in iTunes history," according to representatives for the production, ranking No. 2 on its day of release on the iTunes Top 10 Chart. According to Playbill, "It's a rare occurrence for a Broadway cast album to place among the iTunes best sellers."[42] The record has received positive reviews, with Rolling Stone calling the recording an "outstanding album that highlights the wit of the lyrics and the incredible tunefulness of the songs while leaving you desperate to score tickets to see the actual show."[43] Although the cast album had a respectable debut on the US Billboard 200 chart in its initial week of release, after the show's success at the 2011 Tony Awards, the record skyrocketed back up the chart to number three, making it the highest-charting Broadway cast album in over four decades.[44][45]

Characters and cast members[edit]

The principal cast members of all major productions of The Book of Mormon.[46][47][48][49]

Character Description Original Broadway Cast Current Broadway Cast Original 1st US Tour Cast Current 1st US Tour Cast Original 2nd US Tour Cast Current 2nd US Tour Cast Original West End Cast Current West End Cast
Elder Kevin Price A Mormon missionary sent to Uganda, though he wishes to go to Orlando instead. Andrew Rannells Nic Rouleau Gavin Creel Nic Rouleau David Larsen Gavin Creel Billy Harrigan Tighe
Elder Arnold Cunningham Missionary paired with Price, also sent to Uganda. He often weaves characters from Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings into his teachings. Josh Gad Ben Platt Jared Gertner Christopher John O'Neill Ben Platt Cody Jamison Strand Jared Gertner A.J. Holmes
Nabulungi Mafala Hatimbi's daughter, who dreams of moving to Sal Tlay Ka Siti. Nikki M. James Nikki Renée Daniels Samantha Marie Ware Alexandra Ncube Syesha Mercado Denée Benton Alexia Khadime
Elder McKinley One of the lead Mormon elders and the Church's current District Leader in Uganda, he is sexually attracted to men but in denial of his feelings. This actor also plays Elder Green and Angel Moroni. Rory O'Malley Grey Henson Grey Henson Peter Mitchell Pierce Cassedy Stephen Ashfield
Mafala Hatimbi A member of the Ugandan tribe and Cunningham and Price's tour guide. Nabulungi's father. Michael Potts Daniel Breaker Kevin Mambo Stanley Wayne Mathis James Vincent Meredith Giles Terera Kevin Harvey
Mission President The leader of the Mormon missionaries. This actor also plays Mission Training Center Voice, Price's Dad, Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ. The latter role is dubbed by Trey Parker in the prologues of Act I and Act II. Lewis Cleale Mike McGowan Ron Bohmer Christopher Shyer Haydn Oakley Hugo Harold-Harrison
General Butt-Fucking Naked The murderous despot of the village Price and Cunningham are sent to. Brian Tyree Henry Derrick Williams Derrick Williams Corey Jones David Aron Damane Chris Jarman

Themes and references[edit]

The Book of Mormon contains many religious themes, most notably those of faith and doubt.[50] Although the musical satirizes organized religion and the literal credibility of the LDS Church, the Mormons in The Book of Mormon are portrayed as well-meaning and optimistic, if a little naïve and unworldly. In addition, the central theme that many religious stories are rigid, out of touch, and silly comes to the conclusion that, essentially, religion itself can do enormous good as long as it is taken metaphorically and not literally.[51] Matt Stone, one of the show's creators, described The Book of Mormon as "an atheist's love letter to religion."[52]

Critic Charles McNulty said "The songs, often inspired lampoons of contemporary Broadway styles, are as catchy as they are clever".[53] In the Broadway cast recording's liner notes, Frank Rich wrote that "The Book of Mormon scrupulously follows the old testament of Broadway circa 1945–1965, A.D., even while fondly spoofing it", as when the "Hello!" (the opening number) and "Turn It Off" evoke, respectively, "The Telephone Hour" in Bye Bye Birdie and "I’ll Never Be Jealous Again" from The Pajama Game. Other songs, Rich writes, owe much to the parodies of Tom Lehrer.[54] The reprise of "Orlando" harkens back to "Maria" from West Side Story, while "You And Me (But Mostly Me)", uses very similar chord progressions to "The Wizard and I" and "Defying Gravity" from Wicked,[citation needed] and "Sal Tlay Ka Siti" is strongly reminiscent of Alan Menken's "I wish..." ballads like "Somewhere That's Green", "Santa Fe" and "Part of Your World".[citation needed] "Hasa Diga Eebowai," meanwhile, starts as a gentle parody of The Lion King's "Hakuna Matata" and mentions the song before taking a radical turn.[citation needed] In a series of interview segments for Broadway.com, Casey Nicholaw describes the scene of the Africans performing the "Joseph Smith American Moses" pageant before the Mission President as a "total riff" of the Siamese performance of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" for the British envoy in The King and I.[citation needed] (Both Rich and Kristin Rawls see roots for "I Believe" in The Sound of Music—he in "Climb Ev'ry Mountain",[54] and she in "I Have Confidence".)[55]

The opening scenes of Act I and II parody the Hill Cumorah Pageant.[56]

Reception[edit]

The Book of Mormon received broad critical praise for the plot, score, actors' performances, direction and choreography.[57] Vogue Magazine called the show "the filthiest, most offensive, and—surprise—sweetest thing you’ll see on Broadway this year, and quite possibly the funniest musical ever."[58] The New York Post reported that audience members were "sore from laughing so hard". It praised the score, calling it "tuneful and very funny," and added that "the show has heart. It makes fun of organized religion, but the two Mormons are real people, not caricatures."[59]

Ben Brantley of The New York Times, compared the show favorably to Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I and The Sound of Music but "rather than dealing with tyrannical, charismatic men with way too many children, our heroes... must confront a one-eyed, genocidal warlord with an unprintable name... That's enough to test the faith of even the most optimistic gospel spreaders (not to mention songwriters). Yet in setting these dark elements to sunny melodies The Book of Mormon achieves something like a miracle. It both makes fun of and ardently embraces the all-American art form of the inspirational book musical. No Broadway show has so successfully had it both ways since Mel Brooks adapted his film The Producers for the stage a decade ago."[60] Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, devoted almost his entire interview with Parker and Stone on the March 10, 2011 episode to delivering heaps of praise about the musical.[61]

Charles McNulty of the Los Angeles Times praised the music, and stated: "The songs, often inspired lampoons of contemporary Broadway styles, are as catchy as they are clever." McNulty concluded by stating "Sure it’s crass, but the show is not without good intentions and, in any case, vindicates itself with musical panache."[53] Peter Marks of the Washington Post wrote: "The marvel of The Book of Mormon is that even as it profanes some serious articles of faith, its spirit is anything but mean. The ardently devout and comedically challenged are sure to disagree. Anyone else should excitedly approach the altar of Parker, Stone and Lopez and expect to drink from a cup of some of the sweetest poison ever poured." Marks further describes the musical as "one of the most joyously acidic bundles Broadway has unwrapped in years."[62]

However, The Wall Street Journal's Terry Teachout called the show "slick and smutty: The Book of Mormon is the first musical to open on Broadway since La Cage aux Folles that has the smell of a send-in-the-tourists hit. ... The amateurish part relates mostly to the score, which is jointly credited to the three co-creators and is no better than what you might hear at a junior-varsity college show. The tunes are jingly-jangly, the lyrics embarrassingly ill-crafted."[63] Other critics have called the show "crassly commercial"[64] as well as "dull" and "derivative".[65] The show's depiction of Africans has been termed "racist".[66]

LDS Church response[edit]

The response of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the musical has been described as "measured".[67] The church released an official response to inquiries regarding the musical, stating, "The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people's lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ."[68] Michael Otterson, the head of Public Affairs for the church, followed in April 2011 with measured criticism. "Of course, parody isn't reality, and it's the very distortion that makes it appealing and often funny. The danger is not when people laugh but when they take it seriously—if they leave a theater believing that Mormons really do live in some kind of a surreal world of self-deception and illusion", Otterson wrote, outlining various humanitarian efforts achieved by Mormon missionaries in Africa in recent years.[69][70]

Stone and Parker were unsurprised by this response:

"The official church response was something along the lines of 'The Book of Mormon the musical might entertain you for a night, but the Book of Mormon,'—the book as scripture—'will change your life through Jesus.' Which we actually completely agree with. The Mormon church's response to this musical is almost like our Q.E.D. at the end of it. That's a cool, American response to a ribbing—a big musical that's done in their name. Before the church responded, a lot of people would ask us, 'Are you afraid of what the church would say?' And Trey and I were like, 'They're going to be cool.' And they were like, 'No, they're not. There are going to be protests.' And we were like, 'Nope, they're going to be cool.' We weren't that surprised by the church's response. We had faith in them."[9]

The LDS Church has advertised in the playbills at many of the musical's venues (including Louisville, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dallas, Des Moines, Detroit, Durham, Hartford, Houston, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Portland, Providence, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, Ottawa, Toronto, London, Atlanta, and Washington, DC) to encourage attendees to learn more about the Book of Mormon, with phrases like "the book is always better." and "you've seen the play, now read the book."[71]

Mormons themselves have had varying responses to the musical. Richard Bushman, professor of Mormon studies, said of the musical, "Mormons experience the show like looking at themselves in a fun-house mirror. The reflection is hilarious but not really you. The nose is yours but swollen out of proportion."[72] Bushman said that the musical was not meant to explain Mormon belief, and that many of the ideas in Elder Price's "I Believe" (like God living on a planet called Kolob), though having some roots in Mormon belief, are not doctrinally accurate.[72][73]

The Church highlighted one conversion story by the musical in its semi-official Deseret News.[74]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result Ref
2011 Tony Award Best Musical Won [75]
Best Book of a Musical Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone Won
Best Original Score Won
Best Actor in a Musical Josh Gad Nominated
Andrew Rannells Nominated
Best Featured Actor in a Musical Rory O'Malley Nominated
Best Featured Actress in a Musical Nikki M. James Won
Best Direction of a Musical Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker Won
Best Choreography Casey Nicholaw Nominated
Best Orchestrations Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus Won
Best Scenic Design Scott Pask Won
Best Costume Design Ann Roth Nominated
Best Lighting Design Brian MacDevitt Won
Best Sound Design Brian Ronan Won
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical Won [76]
Outstanding Lyrics Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone Won
Outstanding Music Won
Outstanding Book of a Musical Nominated
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Andrew Rannells Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Rory O'Malley Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Nikki M. James Nominated
Outstanding Choreography Casey Nicholaw Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Musical Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker Won
Outstanding Costume Design Ann Roth Nominated
Outstanding Sound Design of a Musical Brian Ronan Nominated
Outstanding Orchestrations Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus Won
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding New Broadway Musical Won [77]
Outstanding New Score Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone Won
Outstanding Director of a Musical Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker Won
Outstanding Choreographer Casey Nicholaw Nominated
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Josh Gad Won
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Nikki M. James Nominated
2012 Grammy Award Best Musical Theater Album Andrew Rannells & Josh Gad (principal soloists); Matt Stone, Robert Lopez & Trey Parker (composers/lyricists); Anne Garefino, Matt Stone, Robert Lopez, Scott Rudin, Stephen Oremus & Trey Parker (producers); Frank Filipetti (engineer/mixer) Won [78][79]

London production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result Ref
2013 Evening Standard Award Best Musical Nominated [80][81]
Best Night Out Won [82]
2014 Whatsonstage.com Awards Best New Musical Won [83][84]
Best Actor in a Musical Gavin Creel Won
Best Supporting Actor in a Musical Stephen Ashfield Won
Best Supporting Actress in a Musical Alexia Khadime Won
Best Choreographer Casey Nicholaw Nominated
Laurence Olivier Award Best New Musical Won [85]
Best Actor in a Musical Gavin Creel Won
Jared Gertner Nominated
Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical Stephen Ashfield Won
Best Theatre Choreographer Casey Nicholaw Won
Outstanding Achievement in Music Trey Parker, Robert Lopez & Matt Stone Nominated

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "'South Park' creators' musical comedy 'Book of Mormon' gets Broadway dates". Los Angeles Times. September 13, 2010. Retrieved February 6, 2011. 
  2. ^ Michael Riedel, "Just 'Park' it here: Cartoon duo write Mormon musical", New York Post, 2010-04-14.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Galloway, Stephen (March 24, 2011). "Why South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone Now Say It's 'Wrong' to Offend". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 19, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Frank Rich’s Liner Notes for The Book of Mormon", Playbill, May 20, 2011 
  5. ^ Moore, John (June 12, 2011), "The Book of Mormon: Colorado's kings of pop-culture subversion", The Denver Post 
  6. ^ a b c Zoglin, Richard. "Bigger, Live and Uncut", Time magazine, March 28, 2011, pp. 70–72
  7. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (April 14, 2010). "‘South Park’ and ‘Avenue Q’ Guys Bringing ‘Book of Mormon’ to Broadway". New York Times. Retrieved April 14, 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c Jones, Kenneth (April 4, 2011), "Playbill's brief encounter with Robert Lopez", Playbill 
  9. ^ a b c "Book Of Mormon Creators On Their Broadway Smash". Fresh Air. NPR. May 19, 2011. Retrieved May 19, 2011. 
  10. ^ Gardener, Elysa. "'South Park' duo goes Broadway: 'Mormon' is a 'pro-faith musical'". Stage. USA Today. February 21, 2011. Retrieved February 23, 2011.
  11. ^ Marx, Jeff. "the Creation of Avenue Q". Video. Youtube. Retrieved November 12, 2012. 
  12. ^ Adams, Guy (November 19, 2008), "Mormons to get 'South Park' treatment", The Independent (London) 
  13. ^ a b c d e f Healy, Patrick (May 13, 2011). "The Path of ‘The Book of Mormon' to Broadway". The New York Times. 
  14. ^ Andrew Gans, Musical by South Park-Avenue Q Creators Aiming for Broadway in 2011, Playbill, 2010-04-14
  15. ^ Stack, Peggy Fletcher (February 25, 2011). "‘Book of Mormon’ musical called surprisingly sweet". The Salt Lake Tribune. 
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  18. ^ Itzkoff, David (April 25, 2011). "Heavens! Fake Tickets Showing Up at ‘Book of Mormon’ on Broadway". The New York Times. Retrieved April 25, 2011. 
  19. ^ Healy, Patrick (November 24, 2011). "Broadway Hits Make Most of Premium Pricing". The New York Times. Retrieved November 30, 2011. 
  20. ^ Healy, Patrick (November 28, 2011). "Thanksgiving Week Broadway Box Office Stuffed with Good News". The New York Times. Retrieved November 30, 2011. 
  21. ^ Healy, Patrick (November 29, 2011). "In Only Nine Months, ‘Book of Mormon’ Earns Back Its Broadway Costs". The New York Times. Retrieved November 30, 2011. 
  22. ^ ""Two By Two": Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells Will Be Succeeded By Jared Gertner and Nic Rouleau in Book of Mormon". Playbill.com. Retrieved 2014-06-02. 
  23. ^ Matt Doyle to Play Elder Price on Broadway in The Book of Mormon | Broadway Buzz | Broadway.com
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  25. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "Hello! National Tour of 'The Book of Mormon', Starring Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner, Launches Aug. 14 in Denver" playbill.com, August 14, 2012
  26. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "'The Book of Mormon' Will Open Separate Chicago Company in 2012" Playbill.com, September 7, 2011
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  28. ^ Pitch Perfect’s Ben Platt and Nic Rouleau to Star in The Book of Mormon in Chicago | Broadway Buzz | Broadway.com
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  30. ^ Shenton, Mark. " 'The Book of Mormon' Plans West End Premiere; London Website Launched, Tickets to Go on Sale in September" playbill.com, June 7, 2012
  31. ^ Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner to Reprise National Tour Roles in West End's THE BOOK OF MORMON, Beginning Feb 2013
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  48. ^ "2nd US Tour"
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  73. ^ Jay Kernis (Aug 23, 2012). "True or False?: How accurate is "The Book of Mormon" song "I Believe"". nbcnews.com.  (Interview with religious scholar Matthew Bowman)
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  82. ^ "Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2013: Book of Mormon voted Best Night Out in London". standard.co.uk. London Evening Standard. 12 November 2013. Retrieved 15 November 2013. 
  83. ^ "The full 2014 WhatsOnStage Awards shortlists". whatsonstage.com. Whats On Stage. 10 January 2014. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
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  85. ^ "Olivier awards 2014 the full nominations". theguardian.com. The Guardian. 10 March 2014. Retrieved 10 March 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • The Book of Mormon: the Testament of a Broadway Musical Book, Music, and Lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, & Matt Stone. Text, New Interviews, and Annotations by Steven Suskin. Principal photography by Joan Marcus. Design by BLT Communications. NY: HarperCollins, ISBN 978 0 06 223494 0.
  • The Book of Mormon: The Complete Book and Lyrics of the Broadway Musical . Newmarket Press, 2011 ISBN 9781557049933.

External links[edit]