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Can "The Book of Mormon" save Broadway?

Published March 25, 2011 4:51 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

"The Book of Mormon," the musical satire by "South Park" weisenheimers Trey Parker and Matt Stone, opened Thursday night in New York — and, according to one industry observer, it could be the saving grace of an otherwise lackluster season on Broadway.

Broadway news this season has been dominated by the troubles behind-the-scenes of the long-delayed "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark." Between that and Broadway's overreliance on movie adaptations, the one bright spot on the season, according to The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney, is "The Book of Mormon."

Rooney writes:

"Every theater season — which runs June through May — needs a powerhouse hit to galvanize theatergoers, draw media attention and spill a little of its glow onto other productions. With the future of 'Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark' now uncertain as that show goes on hiatus for an extensive overhaul, 'Mormon' might just take that top spot. The show's robust sales during previews have been a strong indicator."

Rooney also predicted that Parker and Stone will be up for some Tony nominations, "provided Tony voters are not clutching their pearls in shock over the show's torrent of profanities."

Reviews for the show have been positive. Here's a sampling:

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: "This is to all the doubters and deniers out there, the ones who say that heaven on Broadway does not exist, that it's only some myth our ancestors dreamed up. I am here to report that a newborn, old-fashioned, pleasure-giving musical has arrived at the Eugene O'Neill Theater, the kind our grandparents told us left them walking on air if not on water. So hie thee hence, nonbelievers (and believers too), to 'The Book of Mormon,' and feast upon its sweetness."

Lisa Schwartzbaum, Entertainment Weekly: "And what happens to Elder Price (Andrew Rannells) and Elder Cunningham (Josh Gad) in poor, hungry, AIDS-plagued Africa is...well, it's R-rated, hilarious, humane, and the basis of an exhilarating Broadway musical at once revolutionary and classic, funny and obscene, uncompromising in production standards and unafraid of just about anything else."

Peter Marks, The Washington Post: "The mighty O'Neill himself would have to have given it up for this extraordinarily well-crafted musical assault on all things holy. The marvel of "The Book of Mormon" is that even as it profanes some serious articles of faith, its spirit is anything but mean. The ardently devout and comedically challenged are sure to disagree. Anyone else should excitedly approach the altar of Parker, Stone and Lopez and expect to drink from a cup of some of the sweetest poison ever poured."

For a little background, go back and read the Tribune's Peggy Fletcher Stack's interview with the musical's co-creator, Matt Stone.