Will 'Book of Mormon' be snubbed at the Tony Awards?
Who would have guessed that the chief creative talents responsible for the hottest musical on Broadway would also be the mavericks behind "South Park," the potty-mouthed animated series on Comedy Central that has spit-roasted every sacred cow within sight?
Now "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker are widely considered to be the front-runners to win best musical at the Tony Awards for "The Book of Mormon," but beware: Their history at showbiz peer-group awards is rocky.
On the plus side, "The Book of Mormon" opened last week at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on Broadway to rapturous reviews. The L.A. Times described "Mormon" as "boisterously outrageous" with "the propulsive verve of a runaway hit," while the notoriously cranky New York Times veritably gushed with praise: "hie thee hence, nonbelievers (and believers too), to 'The Book of Mormon,' and feast upon its sweetness."
One potential downside — lots and lots of "South Park"-style blue humor — has been smoothed over by the glowing notices. Plus, Parker and Stone cowrote the book, music and lyrics with Robert Lopez, who shared a Tony in 2004 for the score of another hit musical with a sweet heart and a foul mouth: "Avenue Q." The show is produced by Scott Rudin, who's won Tonys for staging best musical "Passion" (1994), best plays "Copenhagen" (2000), "The History Boys" (2006), "Doubt" (2005), "The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?" (2002) and "God of Carnage" (2009) plus best play revival with "Fences" (2010).
"South Park" has 10 Emmy nominations for best animated series and four wins. That's not too shabby, but neither Parker nor Stone has ever been nominated for their prodigious voiceover work, nor have they been cited for comedy writing or penning any of the show's numerous musical ditties. It can't be the ribald material. Heck, Justin Timberlake shared a recent Emmy for penning "…. in a Box" for "Saturday Night Live."
(Emmy voters are notoriously stodgy about that voiceover category. Despite giving life to many iconic characters on "The Simpsons" for nearly 20 years, longtime castmate Harry Shearer didn't earn a nomination until 2009.)
When "South Park" migrated to the big screen, Parker and co-lyricist Marc Shaiman were Oscar-nominated for one of the show's less racy tunes ("Blame Canada"). They caused a stir, nevertheless, when Robin Williams was forced to leave out a mild profanity during his performance of the song during the telecast, leading him to appear onstage as a presenter with gaffer's tape over his mouth. A similar kerfluffle could be in the works for the Tony Awards.
Rather than singling them out for individual achievement, clearly Emmy voters are satisfied with nominating Parker and Stone along with the rest of the "South Park" producing team.
Stone and Parker have been intrigued by Mormonism for years. Back in 2003, they spoofed the religion in a "South Park" episode titled "All About the Mormons," which can be viewed here.
-- Tom O'Neil
Photo: Rema Webb, Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad in "The Book of Mormon" at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in New York . Credit: Associated Press