Parker and Stone became friends at the University of Colorado at Boulder. There, they collaborated on a musical film, Cannibal! The Musical(1993).In 1997, they created the TV series South Park for Comedy Central and the 1999 musical film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. Their 1998 film, Orgazmo, and a 2003 episode of South Park both gave comic treatment to Mormonism.
In 2004, Parker and Stone attended a performance of Avenue Q and met Lopez, who co-wrote the show's score. Lopez, a South Park fan, had been considering an idea for a musical involving Mormonism, and after meeting, the three decided to collaborate on The Book of Mormon. They had to work around Parker and Stone's South Park schedule.
Developmental workshops directed by Jason Moore, starred Cheyenne Jackson.Scott Rudin was named as the producer of the show (Rudin also produces South Park). The show was originally slated to open on Broadway in 2009, but it was delayed until 2011.
In the present day, two mismatched Mormon missionaries are sent together to Uganda, Africa. Elder Cunningham is an insecure, overweight, irritating liar, while Elder Price is a devout, enthusiastic, handsome, pompous, over-confident fellow. There, they see people living in appalling conditions of famine, poverty and AIDS, who are ruled by a despotic, murderouschieftain. The native Ugandans curse their existence (saying, "Fuck you, God!"). Several other missionaries already in the country have been unable to convert the locals to Mormonism. The Ugandans cope with their miserable lives by feigning happiness.
Price is certain that he can succeed where the other Mormon Elders have failed. The Ugandans find him arrogant and are not impressed. Soon, Price wishes to be sent elsewhere, likeOrlando, Florida. Cunningham, unhappy with Price, finally takes the initiative. The local leader's daughter, Nabulungi, wants Cunningham to take the whole village to "Salt-e Lake City", where they can find fortune and avoid the horrors of rape, genital mutilation and murder. Cunningham lacks much knowledge of the Book of Mormon, but he makes up stories that combine what he knows of Mormon doctrine with bits and pieces of science fiction and other cultural ideas, many of them unsavory.
The villagers are enchanted; they are baptized and accept Mormonism. They gain the confidence to resist the despot, who also finally converts. Price is astonished to learn that the importance of religion is not truth, but whether it helps people. Ironically, his faith, and that of the other missionaries, is revitalized, and they stay to help the village.
▪ "Hello" – Price, Cunningham and Mormon Boys
▪ "Two By Two" – Price, Cunningham and Mormon Boys
▪ "You and Me (But Mostly Me)" – Price and Cunningham
▪ "Hasa Diga Eebowai" (in English, "Fuck you, God") – Mafala, Price, Cunningham and Ugandans
▪ "Turn It Off" – McKinley and Missionaries
▪ "All American Prophet" – Price, Cunningham, Joseph Smith, Angel Moroni and Company
▪ "Sal Tlay Ka Siti" – Nabulungi
▪ "Man Up" – Cunningham, Nabulungi, Price and Company
▪ "Making Things Up Again" – Cunningham, Cunningham’s Dad, Joseph Smith, Mormon, Moroni and Ugandans
▪ "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" – Price and Company
▪ "I Believe" – Price
▪ "Baptize Me" – Cunningham, Nabulungi
▪ "I Am Africa" – McKinley, Missionaries and Ugandans
▪ "Joseph Smith American Moses" – Nabulungi and Ugandans
▪ "Tomorrow Is a Latter Day" – Price, McKinley, Cunningham, Nabulungi and Company
▪ "Hello" (Reprise) – Company
The Book of Mormon premiered on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on March 24, 2011, following previews from February 24. The production is choreographed by Casey Nicholaw and co-directed by Nicholaw and Parker. Set design is by Scott Pask, costumes are by Ann Roth, lighting by Brian MacDevitt, and sound by Brian Ronan. Orchestrations are byLarry Hochman. The cast stars Andrew Rannells as Elder Price and Josh Gad as Elder Cunningham. The show's creators described the show as "an atheist's love letter to religion."
The Book of Mormon received critical acclaim, mostly praising the plot, score, and choreography. Vogue Magazine called the show "the filthiest, most offensive, and—surprise—sweetest thing you’ll see on Broadway this year, and quite possibly the funniest musical ever." The New York Post reported that audience members were "sore from laughing so hard". It praised the score, calling it "tuneful and very funny," and added that "the show has heart. It makes fun of organized religion, but the two Mormons are real people, not caricatures."
Ben Brantley of The New York Times, compared the show favorably to Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I but "rather than dealing with tyrannical, charismatic men with way too many children, our heroes . . . must confront a one-eyed, genocidal warlord with an unprintable name.... That’s enough to test the faith of even the most optimistic gospel spreaders (not to mention songwriters). Yet in setting these dark elements to sunny melodies, The Book of Mormon achieves something like a miracle. It both makes fun of and ardently embraces the all-American art form of the inspirational book musical. No Broadway show has so successfully had it both ways since Mel Brooks adapted his film The Producers for the stage a decade ago."
Charles McNulty of the Los Angeles Times praised the music, and states: "The songs, often inspired lampoons of contemporary Broadway styles, are as catchy as they are clever." McNulty concludes by stating "Sure it’s crass, but the show is not without good intentions and, in any case, vindicates itself with musical panache." Peter Marks of the Washington Post wrote "The marvel of 'The Book of Mormon' is that even as it profanes some serious articles of faith, its spirit is anything but mean. The ardently devout and comedically challenged are sure to disagree. Anyone else should excitedly approach the altar of Parker, Stone and Lopez and expect to drink from a cup of some of the sweetest poison ever poured." Altman further describes the musical is "one of the most joyously acidic bundles Broadway has unwrapped in years."
However, The Wall Street Journal's Terry Teachout called the show "slick and smutty. The Book of Mormon is the first musical to open on Broadway since La Cage aux Folles that has the smell of a send-in-the-tourists hit . . . The amateurish part relates mostly to the score, which is jointly credited to the three co-creators and is no better than what you might hear at a junior-varsity college show. The tunes are jingly-jangly, the lyrics embarrassingly ill-crafted."
The response of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the musical has been described as "measured". The church released an official response to inquiries regarding the musical, stating, "The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people's lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ."