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South Park’ creators dish on new Broadway musical

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Trey Parker and Matt Stone have temporarily left snowy South Park to give their regards to Broadway.

Stone and Parker, the co-creators of Comedy Central’s hit show “South Park,” are bringing their first play, “The Book of Mormon,” to Broadway.

The show is a satire about two Mormon boys from Salt Lake City, who are sent out of their element to a war zone in Uganda as missionaries. The show opens Thursday on Broadway.

After 14 seasons of “South Park,” and several other feature films, the decision to put together a Broadway play was an easy one for Parker, who wrote the music, lyrics and book, along with Stone and Robert Lopez.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid, and a big Broadway musical was something probably even before movies and television that I really wanted to do,” Parker said in a conference call with Stone.

Writing a Broadway play, however, was not as simple as writing an episode of “South Park.”

An episode of “South Park” generally takes about a week to complete, whereas “The Book of Mormon” took Parker and Stone seven years to fully realize.

“A musical … takes a little more planning and a little deeper into the storytelling than an episode of ‘South Park,'” Stone said. “That’s why we can do an episode of ‘South Park’ in a week, probably because we have the characters or most of them unless they’re new that week, and it’s only 22 minutes.”

Over the seven years of production, Parker and Stone went to write the music for the show first, before penning the rest. The pair’s research for the show ranged from browsing Wikipedia to taking numerous trips to Salt Lake City.

“We would go to these restaurants in downtown Salt Lake City and ask waiters if they knew anybody, and a lot of them were post-collegiate, kind of like 25- to 30-year-old guys, and we would ask them if they’d been on a mission and almost every single one of them had,” Stone said. “And it was interesting. We met a dozen or so people who had been on a mission.”

Though Parker and Stone met each other while attending the University of Colorado, about nine hours from the Mormon hub of Salt Lake City in bordering Utah, they didn’t go into “The Book of Mormon” looking to portray any specific sort of message about Mormons.

While their work often provides satirical looks into various topics, Parker and Stone said they’re careful not to speak through their characters, especially in “The Book of Mormon.”

“I think the stuff that Trey and I like the best is when the characters speak for themselves. I think some of the episodes of ‘South Park’ we’ve obviously gone a little more in the other way, but again, our favorite ones are when the story is true to itself and you can’t quite figure that out,” Stone said. “I think (with) ‘The Book of Mormon,’ we’ve tried to do something that’s much more the characters speaking for the characters and the lines ring true to that.”

Much like “South Park,” “The Book of Mormon” will present material that might be questionable for young audiences.

Because some have described the show as offensive and shocking, Parker and Stone are following the same formula for parents thinking about bringing kids to the show as they do for “South Park.”

“We’re pretty much able to say, if you can sit down and watch any episode of ‘South Park’ with your kids, then it’s probably OK to bring this to them, too,” Parker said.

The show has been garnering favorable reviews from the press. Michael Riedel of The New York Post said the show is “hilarious, audacious — and guaranteed to offend just about everybody,” and Adam Green of Vogue said it’s “quite possibly the funniest musical ever.”

The Mormon church — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — has not been so kind to the musical.

The church issued a statement on its website Feb. 7, saying, “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.”

However, Stone said he’s received good feedback from Mormons who have seen the show in previews.

“I talked to a couple Mormons (who went) to one of the first preview nights and they really liked it,” he said. “I’m sure if you’re a devout Mormon, you probably won’t like this show, but then again, not many devout Mormons are going to come.”

Now, with seven years of work finally about to pay off with the musical’s Thursday night opening, Parker and Stone have made plans for what’s next.

“Go on vacation for two weeks, and then go back to ‘South Park,'” Parker said.

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