The Book of Mormon: Twenty reasons you've got to see it, courtesy the cast and crew
If you are one of the lucky people who snagged a ticket to The Book of Mormon's first stop on its national tour before the Denver run sold out in under four hours, pat yourself on the back. If not, get in line now -- or at least get ready. As we announced yesterday, the Mormon producers have established a lottery for the show, which runs August 14 through September 2 at the Ellie; before each performance, 24 previously luckless fans will be able to snatch up $25 tickets. And if the obvious reasons -- the show's creators (and South Park maestros) Matt Stone and Trey Parker are Colorado natives, and the musical boasts awards out the wazoo -- aren't enough reason for you to get in line, Westword sat down with the cast and creators yesterday and came away with an entire list. Click through for twenty insights gleaned from the people behind the scenes.
20. A handful of cast members wait to meet audience members after every show. "They make you," says Samantha Marie Ware, who plays Nabulungi. "Without them, who's going to sit and watch the show? It's like, 'Thank you for coming and respecting us.' I love talking to them."
19. You can interpret the story however the hell (or heaven) you want. "At the end of the day, I always maintain you can substitute The Book of Mormon for The Bible: The Musical or The Quran: The Musical," says Gavin Creel, who plays Elder Price. "It's using this particular framework to use an example about what faith means. For me, the story is less about The Book of Mormon and more about one nineteen-year-old who thinks he's got it all figured out and another nineteen-year-old who just wants to fit in. And who hasn't felt those two things? All the other stuff that surrounds it is just Trey [Parker] and Matt [Stone] framing those themes."
18. Mormons aren't just an easy target. They're a lens. "They definitely took a chance in writing about a religion that is in the news a lot today," says Grey Henson, who plays Elder McKinley. "It's not even just about Mormonism; it's a vehicle for the show to be written. It's funny and silly and happy, and we don't make them caricatures. It's not about putting them under the magnifying glass or picking on them."
17. No topic is off limits. "The one thing I really respect about Matt and Trey, which I always have, is that nothing is sacred," says Kevin Mambo, who plays Mafala Hatimbi. "The minute you do that, it changes the conversation on the rest of it. We should be able to laugh, or at least discuss all of it, and I think only couching it in some really base, sophomoric humor allows us to look at it directly and not skirt around it or be cute about it. Just here it is. Look at it."
16. Unless, of course, it's just not funny. "There was a time when we were in tech, and the guy playing the father came out in his Jesus costume, and Jeffrey Dahmer was supposed to be fucking the dad in this scene, but instead he was now fucking Jesus," co-creator Robert Lopez says. "We were like, 'That's not funny, and it's really wrong.' If it's not funny, if it's just gratuitous for no reason, no one likes to be bummed out by offensive stuff."
15. All the standards of traditional musicals are still in there somewhere. "What I love about this show is that it takes conventional aspects of musical comedy and staging and choreographing and interjects really modern sentiment and ideas," Creel says. "I saw it in previews and was completely dazzled. The performance is genius, the writing is fast and the staging is so funny."
14. You're just as likely to cry as to cackle. "I think the wide range of emotion it gives people is something that surprises them," Henson says. "You will laugh uproariously and then cry and really be affected and touched. That's really exciting for me in a show -- to have that wide range of effect on people -- and I think that's why audiences keep coming back."
13. Setting the controversial concepts to music changes them entirely. "When you sing these words for the first time instead of reading them, it's all different," says Jared Gertner, who plays Elder Cunningham and starred in the musical's original Broadway run. "Matt and Trey write South Park, and they have these lines you can't believe anyone is writing or saying, but then they have little cartoon children say it and somehow it works. Somehow, when you musicalize these ideas, it taps into a different part of the audience. I don't understand the brilliance, but I respect it."
12. Every once in a while, someone still walks out. "I saw one, and she kind of looked around like, 'Come on, guys!'" Lopez says. "She made a spectacle and very obviously put her program down into the garbage."
11. The play has widened the doors for musical theater. "The Book of Mormon has changed the face of American musical theater," Henson says. "I believe the statements and the guts the show has is something people never thought they would see on a Broadway stage, or for us on the touring stage. Hopefully, after this show we will see more. That's what's exciting about theater, when it surprises you and takes you off guard. I think it's made it okay to take chances."
These women snagged tickets. Did you?
10. It has the potential to open even more. "I'd hope that it would destroy divisions between people: economic classes, religions, non-religions," Creel says. "I think the thing the play arrives at the best is that we're all kind of in this together trying to figure out what we're doing here. The answers are only in the life that we live."
9. Just imagine the ideas that never left the cutting room floor. "There's certainly a lot of material that didn't make it into the finished show," Lopez says. "We had this rough idea for what was going to happen to Elder Price once he got to the warlord. Our first idea was that the warlord was just going to basically fuck him up the ass, and we thought it would be pretty funny if we went there with The Book of Mormon. But we told [our producer] and she was like, 'That's the worst idea you've ever had.'"
8. It explores current events (but to give too many away would be a spoiler). "This musical -- a musical -- is exposing genital mutilation, these issues that are happening now, probably today," Creel says. "That's where humor and horror are necessary. It's never been done before in a topical sense in this way where it's classic theater. There's a proscenium and we're all singing out and doing very idealistic singing, but we're sitting there saying, 'God lives on a planet called Kolob.'"
7. Its original (and risqué) content caught even its cast members off-guard. "I read the script when I was auditioning, and no one was able to see it then," Gertner says. "We sort of had to take the script into a little office and read it there. It was very private, and I remember thinking, 'They can't say this. They can't do this.'"
6. The show's creators aren't fans of the skyrocketing Craigslist ticket prices, either. "That's bullshit," Matt Stone says.
5. Last year, the show won nine Tony Awards -- including Best Musical. "I knew it was a success, but then I saw the Tonys, and I was like, 'Yep,'" says Ware, who has taken many morals away from its story. "A big one is just being yourself, not being a prisoner to the world. I also get a family vibe from it."
4. You might see your grandma there. "Though I knew right away it was going to be great. I remember thinking, 'Well, you know, we won't sell to older audiences or to families,'" Gertner says. "And then we did. Then we started doing Wednesday matinees and having older audiences coming and laughing like they hadn't laughed in years. I think it's been a really good thing for the show for people to open their eyes and stop making judgments and go see it."
3. Mitt Romney is also invited. "Sure, we'd love for him to come," creator Trey Parker says. "I think he'd like it."
2. It's an open-minded mind-opener. "I think it really pushes people to think about things," Ware says. "It's a beautiful story about finding yourself, and you have to take it for what it is. I hope that more musicals will branch out. Step over the line, but bring it back."
1. It's entirely original -- and that's a rarity. "People want to see revivals, and they want to see movies or books they know adapted to the stage," Mambo says. "There's just a lack of highly engaging forward thinking, and I feel like this is that thing. They're seeing something they already know. They already have an opinion, and they're weighing it against what they're seeing. This is an opportunity to see something new."
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Denver art and theater scene.