Trey Parker and Matt Stone on The Book of Mormon
We sit down with the South Park stars in advance of the musical’s Chicago premiere.
Like South Park and Avenue Q, The Book of Mormon draws its comedic power in part from the cognitive dissonance in its combo of innocence and offensiveness.
“We thought when it opened in New York that it’d be controversial and we’d have people walking out,” Lopez says. “But it was so overwhelmingly embraced that I’m willing to tell you it’ll go well anywhere, now.”
Parker explains some of the appeal: “You have [Price and Cunningham’s] relationship, which is like a buddy movie. You have a love story that’s constructed, you have a fish-out-of-water story. You have a coming-of-age story, because they’re 19, and it’s like going to college: that feeling of leaving home for the first time and going someplace and being like, Ooh, what the fuck is this place?”
“The person that I find enjoys the show the most is the person who comes in knowing nothing about the plot,” says Nic Rouleau, who shifts from the Broadway cast to lead Chicago’s as Elder Price (see “Meet the actors,” page 13). “Maybe they’ve heard it’s a racy show, but they don’t know what they’re in for. Usually for the best; I think for the most part people are shocked in a good way.”
Audiences in Chicago are clearly eager to get a shock. The first 12-week block of tickets for the production at the Bank of America Theatre, through March 3, sold out months before opening. In August, the show’s producers announced an extension through June 2, but given that the Chicago cast is separate from the national touring company, it’s widely expected the show will have a continued life here, à la Wicked.
There’s no telling how many of those ticket-buyers are among the reported 4,600 Chicago-area members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But Stone notes that, anecdotally at least, Mormon audience members seem to love the show. “You can rip on [someone’s] story without ripping on the person,” he says. “Growing up in Colorado, we’ve actually known a lot of Mormons, we were friends with Mormons, and to a person they’re just nice people. But then you read the Book of Mormon and what they think historically happened and you’re like, ‘Really? Really, guys?’ ”
The Book of Mormon begins previews Tuesday 11 and opens December 19 at the Bank of America Theatre. See Theater, Touring shows.