Most of us have watched – or at least heard of – South Park, an animated show for adults. It is well-known for its crude jokes and adult themes, despite which it has remained popular.

Hence, when people heard that the creators of Southpark, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, were creating a Broadway show, they knew exactly what to expect: adult themes and profanity!

However, calling it profane or insensitive is reductive and unappreciative of the heart and character that the show exhibits in each performance.

The Book Of Mormon was first shown in 2011, so it is relatively recent compared to other top Broadway Shows in New York, such as The Phantom of The Opera, and it took almost seven years to develop.

The story behind it and how it performed on Broadway is fascinating, so let's delve into it:

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The Synopsis Of The Book Of Mormon

The story surrounds Latter-Day Saint missionaries who are complete opposites from each other – a recipe for entertainment!

Elder Price is eager and talented, whereas Elder Cunningham is a nerd and a pathological liar, and they are both sent together to perform a two-year mission in Uganda.

They are disappointed that people are only worried about the AIDs epidemic, famine, warlords, and poverty rather than religion.

The irony of the show lies in the fact that, despite those issues being more prominent than religion, they wrestled with the thought of why people weren't concerned for their salvation.

The self-aware nature of the script has made this production one of the most sought-after shows in all of New York, alongside Wicked.

The main characters have their issues going on as well- Elder Price is struggling with his doubts and expectations while Elder Cunningham is caught up in the battle of whether he should be truthful or remember scripture.

The costume for the role of Elder Cunningham in The Book of Mormon, which includes a tag that reads: "ELDER CUNNINGHAM – 'The Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints.'" All those representing missionaries in this musical had the same outfits
Elder Cunningham is a character from The Book of Mormon musical known to be irritating, a liar, and deeply obsessed with sci-fi. From the original cast, Josh Gad took on the role of Elder Cunningham (Source: Visual Hunt)

Meanwhile, another missionary named Elder McKinley suppresses his homosexual urges, whereas the Ugandan Nabalungi has to face uncertainty and terror while keeping her dreams and hopes alive.

The team has to work together and be ingenious to succeed, no matter what it takes.

How The Inspiration for The Book of Mormon Came About

The Book of Mormon was created by Robert Lopez, Matt Stone, and Trey Parker. Stone and Parker were raised in Colorado, which is how they knew so much about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

At the University of Colorado in Boulder, they became friends and worked together on the film: Cannibal! The Musical, released in 1993. This was their first experience working on a movie musical.

Their claim to fame came in 1997 when South Park was released on Comedy Central. Taking inspiration from the musical project they had previously worked on, South Park's musical film also came out in 1999, called South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.

Parker and Stone had contemplated creating a fictional version of Joseph Smith, the Latter Day Saint's founder and a religious leader, for a Fox series that talked about different historical characters, but the idea was ultimately aborted.

Persistent with the idea, they had included elements of Mormonism comically before, in a South Park episode and their film Orgazmo, which came out in 1997.

Furthermore, the character of Joseph Smith was also part of the 'Super Best Friends' in South Park, which was a parody of the Justice League and featured other religious figures such as Buddha and Jesus.

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Fun Facts About The Book Of Mormon Musical

The Book Of Mormon is considered one of the best Broadway shows in NYC, and there are several reasons for that.

Moreover, the inspirations for it and its development process were quite peculiar but very interesting. Let's look at some of the facts surrounding this musical:

The Creators' Chemistry

One of the main reasons Parker and Stone got along so well is that they realized they had the same kind of humor, described as 'anti-authoritarian and provocative.'

Much like Chicago, The Book of Mormon also takes a lewd and playful look at an otherwise serious topic.

Sound Design and Music

Robert Lopez, who worked alongside Parker and Stone on the lyrics, music, and book, was known for creating songs for popular TV shows and musicals, such as:

  • Phineas and Ferb
  • Winnie the Pooh
  • Wonder Pets
  • The Finding Nemo musical

He is also the youngest person to win the EGOT- the Emmy, Oscar, Grammy, and Tony Awards. Much like, The Lion King, the sound design in The Book of Mormon is excellent.

Experienced Cast

The original cast included Josh Gad, who played one of the lead roles of Elder Cunningham. He is a celebrity known for several famous roles, such as:

  • LeFou in Disney's live-action version of Beauty and the Beast
  • Olaf from Frozen
  • Mcqueen from Murder On The Orient Express

Industry-Wide Recognition

The Book Of Mormon has won several awards, including nine Tony awards and a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album.

The original ended up becoming the highest-charting Broadway cast album in more than 40 years and was number three on the Billboard charts.

Risky Origins

Most new musicals are premiered off-broadway and transfer there once they have gained some popularity.

However, Parker and Stone were known to "work best when the stakes are highest,' because of which they premiered directly at Broadway.

This move could have cost them millions but worked out in the end because it is now known as one of the top Broadway shows ever.

For The Love Of Utah

Salt Lake City is a common reference within the musical and is sung about repeatedly throughout. The creators conducted initial research in Salt Lake City while they wrote the show.

On the stage, they also added some of the iconic buildings from Salt Lake City, such as the Crown Burger and Salt Lake Temple, in the background.

The Crew Behind The Book Of Mormon on Broadway

A poster of The Book of Mormon musical on Broadway, above another poster that states, "Nine-time winner Tony Awards including Best Musical." Walk down Time Square, and you will probably see Book of Mormon adverts every few steps!
Although shows like The Lion King and Wicked have garnered a lot of interest recently, The Book of Mormon and Hamilton can still be considered as the most important shows currently playing on Broadway, NYC (Source: Unsplash)

The premiere for The Book of Mormon took place at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on Broadway, NYC, in 2011. The crew included some newcomers and some veterans of Broadway show running:

  • Casey Nicholaw did the choreography
  • Parker and Nicholaw co-directed it
  • Scott Pask designed the set
  • Brian Ronan did the sound design
  • Brian MacDevitt did the lighting
  • Ann Roth designed costumes

Furthermore, the orchestrations were created by both Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus, who was the vocal arranger plus musical director.

And as mentioned, Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad were going to headline the production in two of the leading roles originally.

How The Book Of Mormon Creators Recouped Their Investment

New York Broadway production The Book of Mormon was quite innovative about the way they priced the show.

They started with $477 for those who wanted the best seats. This strategy worked tremendously. As a result, the musical became part of the top Broadway shows in New York to sell on Broadway in its first year.

Seats were in demand and coupled with the pricing strategy they created, and the investors were able to recoup their $11.4 million investment after the first nine months.

The cost of costume design was also relatively low, considering the characters were all clad in button-down shirts and formal pants. However, the same cannot be said about productions like Mamma Mia!

Audience members are seated in a Broadway theatre putting on The Book of Mormon musical. Everyone has been handed their playbills before the show starts to know what will happen in the program
The structure of a Broadway NYC theatre is generally composed of three sections: the front mezzanine, rear mezzanine, and the orchestra. The orchestra seats are the most expensive and in-demand because they are closest to the stage and offer unobstructed views (Source: Visual Hunt)

All Top Broadway Shows Take Creative Risks

Depending on the musical genre, there are creative risks that producers have to take to make their show stand out.

The Book of Mormon takes more risks than others, but that strategy has paid off because it is now one of the top Broadway Shows in New York.

As a result, it has become as memorable an entrant onto the Broadway circuit as Jersey Boys.

Even if it has not been running for as long as other musicals, it is number 14 on the longest-running Broadway shows in New York.

This production proves to all those passionate about directing Broadway shows in New York that you should take the plunge and believe in the story. As long as you put in the effort, you will emerge successfully.

Take advice from some of the highly experienced production teachers on Superprof. They are experts who can guide you along your journey and tell you all the dos and don'ts.

Superprof instructors have been rated highly and are passionate about theatre,  making them excellent and engaging teachers!

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Ian