Book of Mormon's Most Outrageous Outtake!

Behind the scenes at how South Park mounted a musical missionary-position

When Broadway finds a ka-chinging trend, it really sticks with it, which is probably why I counted no fewer than five shows about con artists this season and six about religion.

And The Book of Mormon and Sister Act fit into both genres! In that bodacious pair of hit musicals, “religious” folk lie about either who they are or what they’re selling, but everyone winds up being liberated by them anyway, so they all end up gleefully singing showtunes together. And that could be a metaphor for Broadway itself.

At the reception for the Drama Desk Award nominees last week, Sister Act’s star Patina Miller told me, “Religion is so strong, it can make or break a conversation. We’re highlighting it without making fun of it. We’re celebrating it!” And jazzing it up just a tiny bit. The night I saw the show, a nun in the audience wasn’t crossing herself, even though the onstage sisters were rapping, swiveling their hips in lamé habits, and talking Yiddish.

They'll make a convert out of you!
Joan Marcus
They'll make a convert out of you!

Meanwhile, Mormon is disturbing the occasional prudish straggler. (“They can’t get past the third song,” the show’s Rory O’Malley—who sings the hilarious “Turn It Off,” about how to deal with gay urges—told me at the Drama Desk event.) But for the most part, customers are screaming with joy, since the show has the uncanny ability to poke merciless fun at its targets while making you smile with recognition and even affection. It’s the new Producers.

O’Malley went so far as to swear to me that real Mormons have told him the show is spot-on accurate about the rigors of missionary work. “Really?” I moaned. “I didn’t realize this was a documentary, especially when the villagers sing ‘Fuck you, God, in the cunt’!” “They hear it,” he played along, smiling, “but it’s not sung.”

At the Tony nominees meet-and-greet two days later—yes, I’ve been working the circuit like a missionary—Mormon’s co-director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw gave me his documentary-like memories of rehearsing that outrageously cunt-agious scene. “I came aboard late,” Nicholaw said, “so everyone had numbed themselves and been OK with it. But for me to say, ‘OK, folks, let’s take it from blankety-blank in the blank’ into the mic was a little jarring. I had just done Elf, so I went from ‘Let’s take it from sparkle, jolly twinkle’ to ‘Let’s take it from blankety-blank!’ ” “Actually, the Elf saying sounds dirtier to me,” I suggested, wickedly. “In a strange way!” agreed Nicholaw, laughing.

Did the moxieish musical ever include a specific reference to the Mormons’ stance on gay marriage? No, said Nicholaw, “it was actually written before all that Prop. 8 stuff. There were discussions about it, but Trey Parker and Matt Stone didn’t want to go there.” They turned it off! But as Nicholaw reminded me, there’s a satirical line in the song “Salt Lake City” that pretty much makes the case anyway: “The people there are open-minded and don’t care who you’ve been.” Oh, yeah, it’s a regular bunch of sparkle jolly twinklers, LOL.

Alas, Parker and Stone were away working on something called South Park. (They’re the Mo’Nique of the Tonys—unable to pound the whole schmooze circuit, but slam-dunking the awards anyway.) But co-writer Robert Lopez popped up to deliver insight about cross-pollinating with the daft duo. “We met randomly,” he told me, “when they came to see Avenue Q [which Lopez co-wrote] from a puppet point of view because they were doing Team America.”

Collaborating on Mormon from a human point of view, said Lopez, “We had a zillion laughs, and we got stuck a lot.” Whenever that happened, they’d find funny clips on YouTube to massage the pain—like one of a guy who ends up caught in a big, collapsed balloon, “so it’s like he’s trapped in a giant condom. That became our metaphor.”

Where did they draw the line, humor-wise? “At unfunny,” said Lopez. “Something that doesn’t work or get a laugh, especially if it’s offensive and hardcore.” This prompted the greatest story of all time—even greater than the saga of Joseph Smith—and it did get a laugh. Lopez told me that at one tech rehearsal, Lewis Cleale—who plays both the father and Jesus Christ—didn’t have time to make a costume change. So during the “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” number, where the father gets fucked by Jeffrey Dahmer, he came out dressed as Jesus. “So Jesus was being fucked by Jeffrey Dahmer!” remembered Lopez, cringing. In the blankety-blank!

Dressed like a working actor, Josh Gad—who plays Elder Cunningham—told me the show’s sacrilegious hijinks initially gave him pause. “When I got the demo,” Gad said at the Tonys event, “the first thing I heard was the ‘Hakuna Matata’ send-up.” Huh? Is that what “Fuck God in the cunt” was originally called? “No, they’ve asked us not to talk about the name,” he explained. “They don’t want that to be out there.” Oh, I see. Cunts! Anyway, said Gad, “I told my agent, ‘I don’t know if I can be a part of this. I don’t want to get shot’! Then I read the script and I said, ‘Great!’ ” And that, it turned out, was the perfect missionary position to take.

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25 comments
TobinVance
TobinVance

... I wondered about that. It's a shame it didn't happen during an actual show. Then you'd have a select group of folks who could say "I was at the show where...". Hey, I've seen stranger things happen!I WAS able to see a NORMAL show, with no costume malfunctions or other unintentional hijinks this summer (dammit!). Still very funny, and somehow I kept seeing Cartman as Elder Cunningham... go figure. I didn't have a problem getting tickets, either. I bought discount Book of Mormon tickets ahead of time at Amazonticketsonline.com/The-bo.... Go see it. It's worth the money.

★ Soap
★ Soap

Book of Mormon's I haven't checked out yet

Musto
Musto

PS: "Book of Mormon" started following me on Twitter today. They tweet out every press about the show. I direct-messaged them, "Why don't you send out my column?" After all, it's a gushy column all about the show. No answer. No sendout.

Clearly, they want to avoid anything that mentions some of the show's actual content, meaning the raunchy stuff.

I just "unfollowed" them.

Barkley
Barkley

Tired, I didn't laugh once! I hated South Park too, what I've seen (about 20 mins.).

ajarizona
ajarizona

If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

How embarrassing to be involved in such nonsense. The 7th grade locker-room humor has taken over the World.

We're all done...

Missboo42
Missboo42

Yes it is called a ward but I was told it was not a church but a temple. My apt. was in the 'Prophet's Ward' and I went every Sunday morning. First went to see and hear The Mormon Tabernacle Choir (a friend was in it) and walked up the street to the 'Temple' and worshiped. I was never a Mormon. I had to join the church in order to work and survive. As soon as I could leave I did. Never stepped foot into an LDS temple again. By the way, never understood why you had to go to a temple in your ward and not another one you may have liked better. "This is how we do thins here," I was told. You're right. Not a good Mormon. But you're wrong about the other stuff. Did my best under the circumstances. Happy?

bytebear
bytebear

Missboo42, you must have been a really bad Mormon. You are using the term "temple" when you should be using the term "ward." It's a clear giveaway that you were never really a Mormon, and you are just posing to make your "experience" seem legitimate. I cry bullshit.

Barbedwire
Barbedwire

Um, well satire is a way to expose harsh truths. "Mormon" isn't all fun and games. It has a cheery exterior to poke fun at bigotry and other issues.

Missboo42
Missboo42

It may be fun & games on Broadway, but in Salt Lake City in the 90s it was not a joke! Spent a year in SLC. Stayed with friends until I got an apt. Couldn't find work. Great resume. Personnel Agencies wouldn't send me out on interviews. Long story short: joined the LDS (Latter Day Saints). Baptised on a Friday. Monday before Noon I had a primo job. My Mormon friends knew about this job before I joined but kept silent. During the after Baptism party someone told me about an opening in her office. Hmm. Got it. Dutifully went to 'Temple' on Sunday. During the year in SLT I discovered all the women were on prozac, all the kids were on Ritalin and all the men were in the closet! No one drank coffee (it's against their religion) but Utah has the highest consumption of ice cream in the US. Went to see Unzipped (Isaac Mizrahi film) and the audience consisted totally of in-the-closet teen boys. Before it started I talked to the two kids in my row and they both said their parents would DIE if they knew they were there and yes, we're gay. Said they would have to relocate to a larger city to come out. The 'Bishop' of my 'Temple' fixed me up with every single (gay) Mormon over 35. There was no singing & dancing going on. A year spent in hell. Finally saved enough money to leave. I won't be spending $100+ on a ticket to see Book Of Mormon. It ain't no joke, y'all! It's real and it's sad.

Ribs
Ribs

Jesus was fucked by Jeffrey Dahmer??? I wish they'd kept that in.

Bwaybill
Bwaybill

Fun column! I love learning how they offended so artfully.

Landphone
Landphone

Warning, everyone. Barkley doesn't see anything but hates everything. Even when Barkley does see something, Barkley hates it. It's a very tiresome shtick.

Movielover
Movielover

I'm sure you're very bright, but I can't understand anything in your comment.

Virginian
Virginian

@Missboo42: like bytebear said, you are either lying or one of the worst Mormon's I have known. Mormon's don't go to "temple" on Sunday . . . even your vernacular is wrong. And IF you joined just to get a job, who is the hypocrite?

Missboo42
Missboo42

Sorry. "This is how we do THINGS here." A little early for me. Obviously bytebear is Mormon. They cannot stand criticism in any form or fashion. Did learn while in SLC that a large majority of FBI, CIA and Secret Service members are Mormon. All the people I met in my ward were ultra-right wing, conservative Republicans. I'm a little to the left of Chairman Mao. You can imagine how well that went over at the ladies jam making and canning classes.

Rhetro24
Rhetro24

Yeah, Missboo is straight struggling. She's not even sure what she's writing.

Rhetro24
Rhetro24

Satire is a way to expose harsh truths ? Haha. Or a way to try and make a dime. One of the two

corrective_unconscious
corrective_unconscious

"...all the women were on prozac, all the kids were on Ritalin and all the men were in the closet! No one drank coffee...Utah has the highest consumption of ice cream....the audience consisted totally of in-the-closet teen [of age] boys."

If much of this is true I would be very happy amongst the Moron Churchcult throngs. Ice cream good. Coffee the devil.

charlieTT
charlieTT

The "bishop" of your "temple"? Went to "temple" on Sunday? Sorry, but you don't know what you are talking about...

Lothar
Lothar

Read it out loud in an Alistair Cooke-ish voice, but slower. And with the last three words, cast your eyes down and say each word individually and clearly. Cut the lights. [applause]

JonnyOneNote
JonnyOneNote

It's a tired, worn-out, oft-quoted "scripture" that Mormons use when discussing the merits of Art, Literature, whether to see an R-rated movie, or whether to let Rodin's "The Kiss" be shown on the Brigham Young University's "fine arts" museum. It wasn't.

bytebear
bytebear

It's a reference to the 13th Article of Faith (http://lds.org/library/display....

And I agree. I think they are brilliant, but they have the humor and disposition of pubescent adolescents. Imagine what Parker and Stone can do once they grow up.

bytebear
bytebear

Actually, the only thing obvious is I know more about Mormons than you do. By the way, Salt Lake City is about 50% non-Mormon, so if you couldn't get a job, then at least half of the hiring staff just thought you sucked on merit and not religious affiliation. take off the foil hat and get a life.

Lance
Lance

Good satirists can actually do both at once. They've been doing it with South Park for years and they did it again with Mormon.

bytebear
bytebear

Actually, the reference is from the church's Articles of Faith.

We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things. - Articles of Faith #13.

I think Mormons live up to the standard the place upon themselves.

Unfortunately, JonnyOneNote fulfills his as well.

 
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