Creators of the hit-animated sitcom South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, have never been one to feign from controversial material on their show, so it comes as no surprise that the duo's latest Broadway musical endeavor, The Book of Mormon, aims to shake things up a bit.
The pair, known for their crude and satirical television show on Comedy Central and raunchy, dark humor-laced movies such as Orgazmo, BASEketball and Team America: World Police, aim to take a humorous spin at the expense of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Though Parker and Stone are known to portray different religious groups on South Park, including episodes that have centered around Mormonism and Scientology, both claim that their upcoming musical, which previews on Thursday, February 24, is “pro-faith” and not all that offensive.
"We've had both Mormon stuff and musical stuff in our work for a long time," says Parker, chatting with Stone and their collaborator, Tony Award-winning Avenue Q composer/lyricist Robert Lopez, during a recent rehearsal at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre.
That “Mormon stuff” includes a satirical South Park episode that aired in 2003 titled “All About Mormons” and included a sub-plot based around a bumbling Joseph Smith character, the man who lead the Latter Day Saint movement.
"I've always wanted to do a stage musical," said Parker.. "Growing up, I saw all the classics at our little community playhouse. I loved their optimism, especially the older stuff, like Rodgers and Hammerstein."
The premise, Parker and Stone told USAToday theater critic Elysa Gardner, is “a pair of teenage Mormon missionaries sent to Uganda, where they confront war, famine and AIDS, to say nothing of culture clash.”
Despite the possibility that Parker and Stone will lampoon the Mormon Church on the Broadway stage, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has taken a neutral stance on the upcoming production.
In a statement prepared in early February in response to new media requests, the Church said that the show was made to “entertain audiences for an evening” and that its teachings and scripture “will change people's lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.”
A preview of The Book of Mormon musical at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in New York begins on Thursday, February 24, with shows running until Monday, February 28. The show's opening night is set for March 24.
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