Wednesday, April 14, 2010
The Mormon Case for South Park’s Book of Mormon Broadway Musical
The creators of “South Park,” the composer from “Avenue Q” and the director of “Shrek: The Musical” are teaming up to write and produce a musical comedy about Mormons which will debut on Broadway early next year.
Cheyenne Jackson is attached to the project to star as a Mormon missionary serving in a third-world country as the stories of the early church and background of “The Book of Mormon” are told simultaneously.
I am not sure what to think of this quite yet. The combination of those four creative forces is bound to come up with a result that will drive people to go see it, politically correct or not. The marketing machine will be unstoppable.
I am sure there will be an uproar about this endeavor, especially in LDS communities. There will be testimonies born on how the world cannot make fun of what a religious group holds sacred, Facebook groups pledging against it and attempts to boycott or stop the production.
But the production is moving forward regardless, which is why I have chosen to hope for the best. Actually, now that I think about it, I may even be excited about it.
Let me explain my reasoning.
“South Park” and its showrunners, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, have actually been quite generous to Mormons over the course of the show. They have said to the press that they grew up around Mormons and admire the faith. Compared to other religions and organizations, Mormonism has gotten an easy ride on the oft-controversial show.
One episode had Satan’s doorman deadpanning that “Mormon is the correct answer” to a group of protesting religious devotees in hell, another depicted Joseph Smith as a superhero, and the one dedicated episode about the religion, “All About the Mormons,” essentially had a positive depiction of good people of the Mormon faith and was nowhere near as crass and offensive as it could have been. It was a story that had heart.
The writer and composer of “Avenue Q,” Robert Lopez, knows how to write a solid show with catchy music. Remember, “Avenue Q” beat “Wicked” for best musical that year. And he wrote another fantastic and fun musical, “Finding Nemo,” that plays in Disney theme parks.
“Shrek: The Musical” director, Jason Moore, translated the beloved and farcical animated movie beautifully to stage with powerhouse songs and staging, attracting top talent and putting on a show with heart. It was a fun show that had good messages and was an uplifting story, though crude at times.
Cheyenne Jackson can really sing and has a dedicated audience thanks to his previous theatrical work and his role on “30 Rock” (not to mention Cheyenne Jackson as a Mormon missionary would have me buy a ticket in an instant).
Simply put, I think that as potentially edgy as the show might be (though for Broadway, shows are fairly family friendly), “The Book Of Mormon” musical comedy will be a well-written, composed, directed and performed production with a decent message.
Trey Parker even said to the media, “I’ve never met a Mormon I didn’t like. They’re really nice people. They’re so Disney. They’re so Rodgers and Hammerstein.”
So for now, I remain cautiously optimistic and hope for the best, knowing that what they create will have some bite, quality music and a whole lot of heart. To the rest of Mormondom, let’s not rail against this like it the spawn of pure evil ushering in Armageddon. I may be wrong, but this might actually be good.
Plus, it is bound to be better than “The Book of Mormon Movie.” I mean, that was bad.
What if it wins a Tony?