Massachusetts Daily Collegian

South Park creators make Broadway debut

By Kate Evans

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Ever wondered what life is like as a Mormon? Trey Parker and Matt Stone, otherwise known as the creators of Comedy Central’s hit TV series “South Park,” are hitting Broadway to show the world just that.

Parker, Stone and Robert Lopez have spent the last seven years dreaming up and producing “The Book of Mormon,” a satirical musical following two missionaries promoting their religion in a dangerous part of Uganda. 

Parker and Stone’s first Broadway play opens today, March 24 and began previews last month at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in New York City, New York. The two and a half hour show required years of religious research, joke trial and error, and firsthand experience to get where it is today.

On their musical, Parker and Stone said, “We wanted to do a story about these two missionaries who go to a place that is just about as far from where they grew up as possible.” The missionaries are then confronted by all sorts of new challenges “that their Mormon religion doesn’t really jibe with,” as Parker and Stone put it.

The South Park natives were unsure of what the crowd at “The Book of Mormon” might be like, but they have thus far been pleasantly surprised.

Parker and Stone categorized the first few nights’ viewers as fans of the raunchy TV series, saying the audience “sounded like a rock concert.” As the Broadway crowd began filling more seats and leaving satisfied, Parker and Stone have come to believe they’ve pleased a mix.

The writer/animator/actor/editor/producer duo has a history of religious exposure. Both grew up in Colorado and got their first taste of the Mormon experience while living there. Since then, Parker and Stone have frequented Salt Lake City to attend the Sundance Film Festival while studying film in college.

“We could never get into any screenings so we’d just always go down to Temple Square and hang out there,” said the two. 

While in the widely Mormon area, Parker, Stone and Lopez made regular trips to local restaurants to pump wait staff for information. Many of the older male waiters they encountered had been on missions, so the trio pried.

“The technical stuff you can find online, but the real stuff we talked to a lot of different people [to find out],” the Broadway newbies said.

Having also done an episode of South Park titled, “All About Mormons,” it is clear that these two picked a topic of interest. Parker and Stone attributed a mass of their knowledge on the religion to “lots of Wikipedia time,” as they put it.

Shameless fanatics of the collegiate-banned online encyclopedia, Parker and Stone went on to share, “the Latter-Day Saint Church has its own Wikipedia [page], so they make it very easy for someone who wants to learn a lot about their church.”

Another undeniable interest Parker and Stone seem to share is musicals.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid,” said Parker. “Once Matt and I got together we started doing musicals … it seemed like more the idea we were always heading towards.”

Parker and Stone also wrote “Team America: World Police,” a musical film which follows one man as he embarks on an international fight against terrorists to save America.

The comical best friends declared how quickly a good song can get the audience from one point to the next, saying “musicals are always a great way to tell a story.”

When asked how creating an episode of South Park is different from building a Broadway play, Parker and Stone used the analogy, “a five paragraph essay is different than a book.”

To produce a 22-minute episode of South Park takes about a week, whereas “The Book of Mormon” took Parker, Stone and their creative army the greater part of a decade. Though the duo said the humor of the play is on the same page as their TV show, it’s not easy to compare the two because the musical is a “totally different animal.”

Whether whipping up an episode of South Park or slaving over play rewrites, Parker, Stone and Lopez always test out their jokes on one another. Parker and Stone said of the brainstorm sessions, “When you come up with jokes, you’re just trying to make each other laugh.”

Parker and Stone’s overall goal with “The Book of Mormon” was “to make a very traditional musical,” described the pair. Traditional to them means, “there’s definitely a lot of Rodgers & Hammerstein influence in it,” said Parker and Stone.

Many would argue that the creators of South Park wouldn’t create a “traditional” musical. Parker and Stone advise against bringing a child to the play without first watching an episode of their TV series, claiming they are “not smut peddlers.”

Defending their newfound respect of religion, Parker and Stone claimed “God speaks to us and we speak through the characters.” They continued on to say, “If you’d like to argue with the characters, you’d have to take it up with God.”

When asked by another student on a conference call if they are planning another Broadway show in the future, Parker and Stone did not seem too enthusiastic.

“Right now we’re looking forward to getting one week off,” said the pair of a beach vacation.

Parker and Stone’s week hiatus is sure to be short-lived as episodes of South Park keep pumping out around their newfound Broadway buzz.

Kate Evans can be reached at [email protected]

1 Comment

One Response to “South Park creators make Broadway debut”

  1. Trish Dushane on March 24th, 2011 3:19 pm

    I’m so pumped to seee the play!

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