NEW YORK The Book of Mormon arrived on Broadway like a bawdy toddler, cursing and making poo jokes, but winning hearts anyway. Now, its ready for a road trip.
The nine-time Tony Award-winning musical opens its first national tour in Denver this month after its creators have gently prepared the little sister version to stagger off without them.
Doing a musical is like having a kid, said Trey Parker during a break in rehearsals in New York. Its out there alive somewhere. Its not like a movie or a TV show where what we intended is what everyone will see. The kid can act out. The kids going to do what it wants to do.
Parker, with fellow South Park writer Matt Stone and Avenue Q co-creator Robert Lopez, have left little to chance, showing up every day to make sure the touring company is up to snuff.
It does need a parent sometimes to come in and say, Hey! said Parker. In a way, each production is kind of like a kid, too, because they do have a little bit different personality and theres different things you have to worry about.
Jokes Stone: I think Im going to like my third kid the best.
The Book of Mormon was crowned best musical for its offensive yet good-natured look at two missionaries who arrive in Uganda and get way more than they bargained for, including gun-toting warlords and a running gag about maggots in a mans scrotum.
It quickly became the hottest ticket on Broadway last week, it was again sold out and had Broadways highest average ticket price at $186. The show also won a Grammy Award and recouped its $11.4 million capitalization after just nine months. A tour made sense, especially since box-office numbers havent softened since it opened in March 2011.
The tour, led by Gavin Creel, opens tonight at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver and runs until Sept. 2, and then it hits more than 15 cities including Los Angeles; San Francisco; Portland, Ore.; Seattle; Des Moines, Iowa; Minneapolis; St. Louis; Rochester, N.Y.; Detroit; Pittsburgh; Boston; Toronto; Buffalo, N.Y.; Cleveland; and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., by next summer.
Theres more on tap: Another production is slated to open in Chicago in December and by March 2013 all the silliness will be available at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London.
Once they do it on Carnival Cruise Lines, were done, said Parker.
So far, there are no plans to turn the property into a film. Parker said they might if the movie version was totally different and its own thing, adding: People wont necessarily expect what it turns out to be.
The creators have made no changes to the story or score for the touring stage version, although they did have to make a slight tweak to accommodate the much larger venues the show will now play in.
We added a couple of Africans to populate Africa a little bit. But thats it. The shows the show, said Parker, who adds, straight-faced: Weve written pure gold. Its hard to screw it up.
While that may be hard to deny, the trio insist they had no idea The Book of Mormon would become the massive hit it has become when they first delivered their baby on Broadway.
Parker just hoped it didnt close quickly. His secret wish? That it became biggish. Stone also was risk-averse: I didnt want to fail. Maybe thats a year and a-half or a year.
Parker says all three are used to being on the outside looking in, whether its with the foul-mouthed kids from South Park or the foul-mouthed puppets of Avenue Q.
Weve never been the top dog. Weve always been the weird little show over here flipping off the teacher, he said. And so to be, all of a sudden, The Show? Were not totally comfortable. We dont know what that feels like.
Jokes Lopez: Im still not OK with it.
Parker and Stone first met Lopez after a performance of his Avenue Q, the funny, often raunchy musical tribulations of twentysomethings. Lopez credited the South Park guys with laying the groundwork for his quirky, profane musical and they, in turn, told Lopez he had inspired them.
I kind of had counted Broadway out for dead. It was all remakes of movies. It was always something rehashed, says Parker. If nothing else, Ill be most proud if we somehow change Broadway just a little bit and make more original stuff come out.
The three have discussed working together again, but so far a story like the one that tumbled out organically about Mormon missionaries hasnt emerged.
Weve thought of it. We just havent thought up the idea, says Lopez, who is working on a comedy project with his brother for ABC. Adds Stone: Were just waiting for `aha!