BTW, did you know that while the Spider-Man musical has been painfully making its way to a long-delayed opening, South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have done what they should have done years ago and created a Broadway musical? The Book of Mormon opens at the end of March. It’s a collaboration with Robert Lopez, creator of the cult puppet hit Avenue Q. Parker and Stone wrote the book and the songs, as they did with the South Park movie, TEAM AMERICA, and countless episodes of South Park.
And so far, people actually like it!
I’d like to refrain from gushing here, because we only saw 25 minutes and it’s hard to remain objective when some of Broadway’s most talented actors are performing three feet away from you in a cramped rehearsal space. But I was grinning widely from the first moment to the last, both thanks to the sheer musical joy of watching actors dressed as Mormon missionaries sing and dance and the wicked humor of every song. Bearing the musical influences of everything from The Music Man to The Lion King and questioning the very existence of God early in the first act, The Book of Mormon is both rousing old-fashioned entertainment and a very specific kind of satire. Maybe most surprisingly, it’s not nearly as harsh on Mormonism as you might expect; the two central Mormon characters are goofy but also relatable, and though Parker and Stone are having fun with the notion of an omnipotent God, it also seems that religious and non-religious folks will be able to walk out thinking the show is on their side. Of course, because this is Broadway and you’ve got to sell out a lot of seats to turn a profit, they’re going to have to appeal to the widest audience possible no matter what. The nice thing from what I saw seems to be that, despite that demand wide appeal, Parker and Stone haven’t softened their edge.
That Parker and Stone should turn to the actual stage will come as no surprise, given their interest in musicals and their obvious flair for writing songs. (Blame Canada!) Only last night, Comedy Central showed the great episode “Elementary School Musical”:
Not only are there funny lyrics, but the music is a dead-on parody of late ’80s anthems, with boomtastic drums and squealing guitar outbursts.
“Do what you wanna do! Just make sure what you’re doing is cool and popular with everyone!”
In the dark days before Zac Efron, Parker and Stone kept the tradition of the great musical alive with songs like “Lemmiwinks” and “Montage.” They may be thought of as irreverent satirists, but a close listening reveals they are just song and dance men at heart who would be hoofing it with Jimmy Cagney on the Great White Way if they’d been born in the right time.
Call us crazy but maybe we’d rather see The Book of Mormon than Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark after all.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.