Following Saturday night’s preview performance of smash musical The Book of Mormon, which begins a 12-week west coast run at the Pantages tomorrow night, FishbowlLA and a select group of other media folks hung around for an informal press conference with show co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. (Robert Lopez, the third person responsible for the scintillating book, music and lyrics, did not attend.)
The Tony Award-winning tandem confirmed not a word has been changed from the Broadway and Denver incarnations. That includes the genital double-down line repeated throughout by a resident of the Ugandan village where Latter-Day Saint newbies Elder Price (Gavin Creel) and Elder Cunningham (Jared Gertner) arrive to spread the Mormon gospel. We don’t want to spoil the fun by mentioning the specifics. However, to FishbowlLA’s opening press conference question about whether other dialogue was considered for this hilarious running gag, Stone confirmed a longstanding previous punchline.
“It’s funny,” he recalled. “That particular song, “American Prophet,” used to be called “The Bible is a Trilogy.” It was kind of a joke about how the third part of a film trilogy is always the best movie, and how the first Matrix was *actually* the best… The African guy stepped forward and said, ‘Can you imagine if The Matrix had ended after the first one?’ And then he sang, “I actually thought the third Matrix was the worst one.”
“We had that in there for the longest time,” Parker continued. “But then we finally thought we can’t do the Bible as a trilogy thing [The Book of Mormon being the additional, third part to the Old and New Testaments], so we changed it to this other song and realized we had lost that great line. We wondered what else the villager could say when he comes forward and we came up with…”
In terms of rousing choreography, two stand-out numbers are Act One’s “Turn It Off” and Act Two’s “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream.” At one point in the latter, Johnnie Cochran shows up with a glove that doesn’t fit. By sheer coincidence, this LA -specific reference will play at the Pantages against the backdrop of some headline-grabbing new claims that O.J. Simpson’s defense team tampered with that key piece of evidence.
There are three full-page ads in the Playbill program for the Pantages show proclaiming the glory of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Each is designed to point audience members to a namesake URL. Stone and Parker think they know why their latest target is happy to be in the program.
“We deliberately stayed away from the whole polygamy thing, only because we wanted to do your everyday Salt Lake City Mormon,” Parker explained. “And we obviously sort of do the stereotype of that. Mormons have polygamy and fundamentalists in their history, but because of HBO’s Big Love and all these things, it was also joke-wise just so done.”
There was much media laughter throughout the press conference, with probably the biggest reaction coming when Parker answered the question, ‘Is it surreal that you’ve continued to do what you’ve always done and that the Upper West Side old ladies are now coming to see you?’
His answer: “I think part of that is, we’re in our forties… I remember watching people at the Broadway show and seeing this little old lady with grey hair, and I was like, ‘Ohhhh, what’s she going to think?’ And I’m like, ‘That lady is only 20 years older than me!’”
P.S. Mitt Romney has yet to see this Book of Mormon, but Stone confirmed the Republican candidate has been invited and his reps have indicated that he will at some point check out the show. Romney could probably score some major PR points by doing so before November.
[Photos (top to bottom) of show stars Creel and Gertner © Joan Marcus]