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The Book Of Mormon creators talk smash-hit musical heading for Aberdeen

book of mormon is coming to aberdeen

Ever since it premiered on Broadway in 2011, The Book of Mormon has been a smash hit. And now, the worldwide phenomenon will finally arrive in Aberdeen next week.

The musical follows a pair of mismatched teen Mormon missionaries who attempt to spread the word in Africa. Who’d think that would make for a great night out? Well, more than 17 million people who have already seen the musical, it turns out.

Ever since its premiere at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in New York, it has been a critical and commercial hit, conquering cities across America, Canada and Australia as well as Broadway and London’s West End.

The Book Of Mormon embarked on its UK tour back in 2019, but its Aberdeen dates were postponed due to the pandemic. It’ll now be at His Majesty’s from Tuesday May 17 until Saturday June 4.

The Book Of Mormon is on its way to Aberdeen

And while the show’s creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker – who are also behind the American sitcom South Park – always believed the musical would be successful, they didn’t quite expect it would become the phenomenon that it is today.

Matt Stone and Trey Parker, co-creators of The Book Of Mormon.

“We thought we really wanted to just open up a Broadway show, have it be successful, and we thought we could do that,” said Trey Parker.

“But we didn’t think it would be this. We did have some confidence in it, but we didn’t think it would be this.”

In many ways, The Book of Mormon’s kinship to South Park is quite clear. There aren’t many Broadway musicals that could get away with making jokes about AIDS, cannibalism and even female genital mutilation.

But it’s also a coming-of-age tale that pays tribute to many of the musical greats. Aficionados of the genre will easily be able to spot references to The Music Man and The Sound of Music, to The King and I and to The Lion King.

Parker said: “It’s really two kids coming out of high school, basically, going out into the world, and thinking they’ve kind of got it and they know it all.”

But as it turns out, they really don’t.

“And I think anyone around the world can relate to that a little bit,” added Parker.

book of mormon is coming to aberdeen
The Book Of Mormon is at HMT from May 17 to June 4.

Indeed for the majority of audience members, the most shocking thing about The Book of Mormon won’t be its humour, but its heart.

The show thrives on a kind of bromance between the two Elders – bustling, bright-eyed, all-achieving Price, and the eccentric, prone-to-lying Cunningham. And you could say the musical was born from a bromance too.

Collaboration with Robert Lopez

But the creative duo didn’t write The Book of Mormon alone. They collaborated with Robert Lopez, who was making a name for himself as the co-creator of musical comedy Avenue Q.

In 2003 Parker and Stone went to see the musical. They loved it but were surprised to see a thank you note to them in the programme, from a man they had never met: Robert Lopez.

The New Yorker was expressing gratitude to them for their South Park movie, for which Parker got an Oscar nomination for Best Song in 1999. It had been a major inspiration to him.

The three met afterwards and had a casual chat about the projects they’d like to do next. What Lopez admitted floored them: “I’d love to do something on Joseph Smith, and Mormons…?”

More than 17 million people have already seen The Book Of Mormon which is heading to Aberdeen.
More than 17 million people have already seen The Book Of Mormon which is heading to Aberdeen.

The real Book Of Mormon

Parker and Stone thought they were the only ones. Mormonism and Joseph Smith — the man who officially founded the religion in 1830 somewhere on the east side of America — is not really your average enthusiasm.

The story of Smith, who claimed he was presented with two golden plates by angels, and who wrote down their contents as this all-important Book of Mormon – is a key piece of American history, but might appear slightly weird and rather niche.

But this, naturally, is what made it appeal to Parker and Stone who, growing up in Colorado, just one state across from the Mormon heartland of Utah, were well aware of this branch of Christianity.

“We grew up with Mormons,” said Parker, “we had Mormon friends, my first girlfriend was Mormon. I mean, it’s weirder that Bobby (Robert Lopez) had a fascination.”

“For us, it was next door, but he grew up in New York City,” laughed Matt Stone.

Years in development

What followed was years of brainstorming and bouncing about different ideas.

“We dabbled with it a long time,” admitted Parker.

When he and Stone weren’t working on South Park, and Lopez wasn’t pursuing his own projects, they would meet up and write songs for what would became The Book Of Mormon.

“We almost did it like a band,” said Parker.

The trio also attended the annual Hill Cumorah pageant in New York State, where the Mormons tell the story of their religion – in what could be described as a “showbiz way”.

“It was an 800-person musical,” said Stone who revealed that it was even weirder to be observing the pageant being protested by other Christian sects, outraged at the Mormons’ take.

“I remember there was a little kid there just saying to me that I was going to burn in hell because he assumed I was a Mormon,” recounts Parker.

“And I was watching him, like, you have no idea, kid. I’m going to super burn in hell. Like, really burn in hell. You’re worried about these guys…?”

The Book Of Mormon – which is coming to Aberdeen – could have been a film

The first six or seven songs – deeply melodic and wickedly funny – arrived very quickly. So the next question ultimately was where to take it from there.

For Parker and Stone, who’d previously only worked on screen, a film seemed the obvious conclusion. But as the group began to workshop the songs with singers and performers, its identity as a live show became clearer.

But what surprised them the most was that it wasn’t going to be some quirky off-Broadway venture, but a big mainstream show.

And the rest is history.

book of mormon aberdeen
The Book Of Mormon. Photo by Paul Coltas

The team premiered the show in 2011 on Broadway, where it soon gained rave reviews. There was barely any outrage or criticism which may have been surprising to many, but not to Parker and Stone.

“Me and Trey called it,” said Stone.

“The general assumption is that when you expose a global religion to ridicule, someone somewhere may kick off.

“And we were like, no. Because we know Mormons. Mormons are nice people and they’re smart people.

“We didn’t think they’d go so far as to take out ads in our programme…”

Yes, the last bit is completely true. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints even decided to piggyback on the show’s success, pointing theatre-goers to the actual, original Book of Mormon.

One of the programmes even featured a cheeky “The book is always better” line.

“They trumped us, really,” said Parker who could only admire the church’s move.

How to book tickets to see The Book Of Mormon in Aberdeen

The Book Of Mormon is at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen from Tuesday May 17 until Saturday June 4. Click here if you wish to purchase tickets.

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