The Book of Mormon Revised

11 Jul

The musical, The Book of Mormon, opened its doors on Broadway in March of 2011. It was a hit that went on to win nine Tony Awards and the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. The musical was composed and written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of the adult cartoon “South Park.” Parker and Stone began creating the idea of The Book of Mormon in 2003, and for the next several years they would be collaborating their ideas along with Robert Lopez and periodically with Jeff Marx, who eventually separated from the project.

The four men however first met in Los Angeles where they all realized they wanted to write about Joseph Smith, the author of the actual Book of Mormon. Jeff Marx was the creator of the musical Avenue Q, which is a similar type of humor to the show South Park. The men hit it off and started putting their ideas together for their musical involving religion and comedy. Scott Rudin, a producer, signed a script deal with Parker and Stone and decided to put them straight on Broadway, not Off-Broadway first which is where a lot of musicals start out. Rudin felt that it would be better for it to start in the big leagues and so it did. The Eugene O’Neil Theater was booked and prepared to design sets and audition actors. Out of the hundreds that came, 28 performers were chosen and immediately began learning the script, choreography, and musical numbers.  It was a speedy process leading up to the first show and within a few weeks the final rehearsals and technical run throughs were completed.

As the curtains unveiled the show on opening night, two Mormon missionaries emerged on stage that were about to embark on a long journey. Just like in the Mormon religion, it is encouraged that a pair of people are devoted to serving and spreading the word of God for two years and are sometimes required to go to other countries. In this musical, the two men are hoping to go to Orlando, Florida, but end up in poverty-stricken Uganda. Although this sounds like a dire situation, Parker and Stone are able to make this a total comedy. The two men are at first held at gunpoint when they enter the country, but later are accepted into a tribe of Ugandans. The two missionaries do well on their adventure and are somewhat successful while in Uganda. The musical however, pokes fun at the religion and has brought up some disputes over whether the show was too cynical towards Mormons.

Some of the controversy over this musical was how it depicts Mormons. Some people feel that this was a harmless musical intended to make a few laughs, while others take it more personal and feel insulted by the crude and inappropriate jokes. The Hollywood Reporter states their opinion by saying:

“Religious zealots are not going to roll up, but the show has a comic field day with Mormonism while simultaneously acknowledging — maybe even respecting — the right of everyone to follow any faith they choose. Or invent.”

I agree that most religious people probably would not go see this musical, especially just by knowing who wrote the script. The creators of the show are known for their potty mouthed characters on South Park and have a history of mocking religion. In defense, Parker and Stone comment to Garth Johnston in an interview by saying:

“We like Mormons! The Mormons in the show, their spirit saves the day. At the same time, it’s about two missionaries going and trying to spread their religion.”

Parker and Stone try to express their feelings about the Mormon religion and that they do not intend to put down their practices. They actually wanted to use Mormons and lift up their fighting spirit and determined characteristics. The way the show is presented looks questionable but others are saying that the musical really is not that much of a controversy.

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Photo Courtesy of Bryan-Brown, Joan Marcus, AP Photo/Boneau

In a different interview with ABC news, Parker and Stone comment by saying:

“Anybody’s religion, to an outsider, it’s just as goofy,” he said. “I don’t think either of us think Mormonism is any goofy-ier than Hinduism or Christianity, from an outsider’s point of view.”

Their point here is acknowledging that they do make fun of Mormons but they also make fun of other religions too. The more I read about “South Park” I also started to see that no religion, culture, or belief is off-limits for Stone and Parker. They will make fun of anything and everything, not just Mormons.

I would lastly like to recommend you to watch their video linked to the ABC news channel because you can get Stone and Parker’s perspective directly from them. And in my next post, I will be writing more on this topic but dive deeper into what others think about this controversy, so stay tuned!

Link to video:

ABCNEWS.COM – South Park’s controversial creators take on Broadway and the Mormon Church.

via Blasphemy on Broadway.

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The Book of Mormon Cont’d

9 Jul

In my last post I wrote about the new musical The Book of Mormon. If you would like to learn more about the making of the show and the producers click here to read my original post. Today I want to delve further into what I previously wrote about how Mormons and others feel about the musical.  There has been a lot of controversy in response to this musical particularly because it mocks the Mormon religion. The writers and composers for the show, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, also made the hit series “South Park,” which is known for its potty mouthed, inappropriate cartoon characters.

My first impression when I heard about the musical was that it was going to trash Mormons and make fun of their beliefs. However, the more I researched the show, the more I found different reviews. Most Mormons actually do not find the show that disrespectful, but they also do not intend to see the musical. In an article I read, many Mormons state their takes on the musical. One of theses Mormons, Alex Boyé, a former boy band singer, states how he feels about the musical:

“I wouldn’t go because it is really sacrilegious and mocks the things I believe in,” he says. “We could picket the performance or get really angry and say we hate it. But we always see the positive of everything. That is what we are all about.”

Boyé says he would not go see the show but he also would not try to stop or protest the show. He wants to see the positive come out of it and he hopes that it will not just be a negative event towards Mormons. I understand his point because I would consider myself a religious person. Although I’m not Mormon, I would not pay to see something where people make light of God and disrespect what I believe in. If others want to do that, it is there choice and they are completely free to do so.

Another comment made by the Mormon church is from the official Church of Latter Day Saints. According to lds.org the church states:

“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.”

The church members feel that the musical is not that important to them and is irrelevant to what they teach about. They are only concerned with their message and do not care to pay much attention to the musical. But some Mormons actually decided that they could use the musical as a way to reach out to others. On a chilly spring evening, Elders Skyler Finn and Jacob Chapman stood outside of a theater that was performing The Book of Mormon. They bumped into Danielle Tumminio, a blogger working for the Huffington Post, who felt compelled to ask them why they chose to market their religion there. Chapman tells Tumminio:

“We were actually really reticent about it. We were really scared. When I heard about some of the songs that were in it, it did make me a little uncomfortable … It says foul language, and it seems like it has some stuff that makes pretty blatant fun of what we believe, and so that hurts a little bit.”

Yet, even with this in mind, the two Mormons decided to go anyway and hand out scripture pamphlets. They told Tumminio that everyday they are ignored and mocked on the streets when they hand out pamphlets so they figured this could not be any different. Instead, they came to find out that they would hand out more pamphlets than normal and people were more receptive to learning about their church. One woman, Liza Morong, converted to being a Mormon after watching the show. She started off wondering about religion and found herself wanting to become a part of it. One song in particular titled, “I believe,” stuck with her the most. Morong has a deeper connection with the song and gives credit to Parker and Stone by saying:

“It’s true. You do just feel it, and it’s beautiful. So now whenever I hear that, I think, ‘Ugh, they’re right about that! Well done, ‘South Park.’ Well done!'”

With that said, it is hard to say if the musical is bad after all. It does offend some people and makes them feel uncomfortable, but for others it has inspired them to become Mormon and changed their lives for the better.

The Book of Mormon

8 Jul

The musical, The Book of Mormon, opened its doors on Broadway in March of 2011. It was a hit that went on to win nine Tony Awards and the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. The musical was composed and written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of the adult cartoon “South Park.” Parker and Stone began creating the idea of The Book of Mormon in 2003, and for the next several years they would be collaborating their ideas along with Robert Lopez and periodically with Jeff Marx, who eventually separated from the project.

The four men however first met in Los Angeles where they all realized they wanted to write about Joseph Smith, the author of the actual Book of Mormon. Jeff Marx was the creator of the musical Avenue Q, which is a similar type of humor to the show South Park. The men hit it off and started putting their ideas together for their musical involving religion and comedy. Scott Rudin, a producer, signed a script deal with Parker and Stone and decided to put them straight on Broadway, not Off-Broadway first which is were a lot of musicals start out. Rudin felt that it would be better for it to start in the big leagues and so it did. The Eugene O’Neil Theater was booked and prepared to design sets and audition actors. Out of the hundreds that came, 28 performers were chosen and immediately began learning the script, choreography, and musical numbers.  It was a speedy process leading up to the first show and within a few weeks the final rehearsals and technical run throughs were completed.

As the curtains are unveiled on opening night, two Mormon missionaries emerge on stage that are about to embark on a long journey. Just like in the Mormon religion, it is encouraged that a pair of people are devoted to serving and spreading the word of God for two years and are sometimes required to go to other countries. In this musical, the two men are hoping to go to Orlando, Florida, but end up in poverty-stricken Uganda. Although this sounds like a dire situation, Parker and Stone are able to make this a total comedy. The two men are at first held at gunpoint when they enter the country, but later are accepted into a tribe of Ugandans. The two missionaries do well on their adventure and are somewhat successful while in Uganda. The musical however, pokes fun at the religion and has brought up some disputes over whether the show was too cynical towards Mormons.

Some of the controversy over this musical was how it depicts Mormons. Some people feel that this was a harmless musical intended to make a few laughs, while others take it more personal and feel insulted by the crude and inappropriate jokes. The Hollywood Reporter states their opinion by saying:

“Religious zealots are not going to roll up, but the show has a comic field day with Mormonism while simultaneously acknowledging — maybe even respecting — the right of everyone to follow any faith they choose. Or invent.”

I agree that most religious people probably would not go see this musical, especially just by knowing who wrote the script. The creators of the show are known for their potty mouthed characters on South Park and have a history of mocking religion. In defense, Parker and Stone comment to Garth Johnston in an interview by saying:

“We like Mormons! The Mormons in the show, their spirit saves the day. At the same time, it’s about two missionaries going and trying to spread their religion.”

Parker and Stone try to express their feelings about the Mormon religion and that they do not intend to put down their practices. They actually wanted to use Mormons and lift up their fighting spirit and determined characteristics. The way the show is presented looks questionable but others are saying that the musical really is not that much of a controversy, but there are still more opinions out there about the show.

Cats Revised

2 Jul

Cats, one of the most popular musicals of all time, began on the West End stage in 1981. It made its debut in New York but lasted up to the 2000′s and was so famous it spread around the world. The show is mostly known for its outrageous cat costumes and hit song, “Memory.”  The musical is based off of T.S Elliot’s book, Old Possom’s Book of Practical Cats and the music was composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who also composed for The Phantom of the Opera. The most famous song, “Memory,” is sung by the outcast cat, Grizabella, played by Elaine Paige in the original cast. She sings this song as she reflects on what her life used to be like when she was still with the pack. She and all the other cats are awaiting the arrival of Old Deuteronomy, the old and wise cat, who will determine who travels on a journey to the Heaviside Layer to be reborn. Luckily, Old Deuteronomy chooses Grizabella and in the end she is added back into the cats tribe, called the Jellicle.

As I mentioned earlier, the make-up involved in the musical was quite intense. Some cats had orange and flesh colors blended into their face, some had a glittery white color that sparkled under the spotlight, while others were dark with browns and blacks mixed in. The performers were transformed into cats with dynamic shading and skin-tight outfits that appeared shiny and smooth. The cats also wore short, fluffy wigs that flowed around as they danced and completed the look of being a cat as you can see in the picture below.

ustourgrouplrg

US tour photo by Joan Marcus

The actors in Cats were all very talented and required to sing, dance, and act. The dancing in the show is primarily jazz and ballet, requiring the level of talent to be incredibly high and ensuring the show to be amazing. Also mentioned earlier is Elaine Paige, whose name is famously associated with Cats. Her performance in the musical swept her to fame because of the song she passionately sang titled, “Memory.” She recalls her time at Webber’s house singing the song for the first time and thinking:

“Oh, it’s fantastic. I want to sing this. It did something to me. I thought it was the most glorious melody. So I feel in some respects I was fated to sing it.”

And that is exactly what happened. Paige sang “Memory” on opening night to begin the start of the musical. I personally feel that words cannot describe the emotion she conveys in the song, so i decided to post a video of her singing it below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-L6rEm0rnY

Andrew Lloyd Webber, the composer of Cats, also notes his thoughts in an article about the musical. He says he was inspired to write songs to the story because it was one of his favorite books from his childhood. He says the book already, “contained verses that are extraordinarily musical,” which helped him to put music to words. Something else I learned was that T.S Elliot turned down Disney because he did not want his cats to become like “pussycats.”  However, he did give permission to Webber because he felt that Webber shared the same kind of vision for his story and what he hoped for it to be.

Cats

1 Jul

Cats, one of the most popular musicals of all time, began on the West End stage in 1981. It made its debut in New York but lasted up to the 2000’s and was so famous it spread around the world. The show is mostly known for its outrageous cat costumes and hit song, “Memory.”  The musical is based off of T.S Elliot’s book, Old Possom’s Book of Practical Cats and the music was composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who also composed for The Phantom of the Opera. The most famous song, “Memory,” is sung by the outcast cat, Grizabella, played by Elaine Paige in the original cast. She sings this song as she reflects on what her life used to be like when she was still with the pack. She and all the other cats are awaiting the arrival of Old Deuteronomy, the old and wise cat, who will determine who travels on a journey to the Heaviside Layer to reborn. Luckily, Old Deuteronomy chooses Grizabella and in the end she is added back into the cats tribe, called the Jellicle.

As I mentioned earlier, the make-up involved in the musical was quite intense. The performers were transformed into cats with dynamic shading and skin tight outfits. The cats also wore wigs that looked short and fluffy and completed the look of being a cat as you can see in the picture below.

ustourgrouplrg

Cats US Tour photo by Joan Marcus

Andrew Lloyd Webber also notes his thoughts in an article about the musical. He says he was inspired to write songs to the story because it was one of his favorite books from his childhood. He says the book already, “contained verses that are extraordinarily musical,” which helped him to put music to words. Something else I learned was that T.S Elliot turned down Disney because he did not want his cats to become like “pussycats.”  However, he did give permission to Webber because he felt that Webber shared the same kind of vision for his story and what he hoped for it to be.

Tony Awards in 2013

27 Jun

In June, the Tony Awards Ceremony was held to give away awards to some of the best musicals in New York. Two top nominees such as “Matilda: The Musical” and “Kinky Boots” performed but since most fans are unfamiliar with musicals that are not mainstream, the show also featured classics like The Phantom of the Opera, which you can read more about in my earlier blog. The long time producers, Glenn Weiss and Ricky Kirshner, felt that it was important to include both new and classic Broadway pieces to the Tony Awards. Weiss further explains this by saying:

“This year is a bit different for us because we’ll be putting on a show about iconic Broadway. We felt that that was important for [viewers] who didn’t make it for the first month of opening. They need material they know and love.”

The producers were concerned that the viewers would not connect as much to the new musicals and felt the need to add in more familiar and famous shows. I definitely agree that this was necessary due to the drop in viewers this year. Only about 6 million people watched the Tony’s, which is the lowest number of viewers in 2 decades.

Another change this year was the location of the Tony’s. Instead of being held at the “intimate” Beacon Theater, the show was held at the Radio City Theater. This was because the previous years another group occupied the Radio City Theater, so the Tony Awards had to be moved to the other theater. Producer Kirshner comments on this by saying: “We wanted to take the philosophy of what we learned at the Beacon back to Radio City with us, but we also wanted to take advantage of the space here.” That means, the stage would be closed off to give the feel of an intimate theater, but still had more room for big musical numbers and a larger cast.

But this was not all that was done to bring in viewers, famous actress Scarlett Johansson was given a lead roll in Christopher Durang’s musical, “Vanya, Sonya, Masha, and Spike,” and other famous actors accompanied Johansson to hopefully bring in more fans. The Tony Award’s seemed to have a difficult time pulling in profits and promoting their shows this year, but there is not a doubt the producers are working hard to keep people coming out and supporting the Broadway shows.

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The Phantom of the Opera Revised

25 Jun

Growing up, one of my favorite movies to watch was The Phantom of the Opera. Little did I know that this movie was the longest-running show on Broadway. For years, audiences have walked away with a thrill from this exciting story of romance, heartbreak, and mystery. The Phantom, a musical, haunted genius, falls in love with ballet dancer Christine Daae but suddenly she is swept off her feet by her childhood lover, Raoul. The Phantom teaches Christine to become a better singer and guides her to becoming the lead in the Opera House. In the end, Christine is forced to choose between the two men: the Phantom, who has helped her reach her musical talents or Raoul, the childhood friend that she can trust and depend on.

My experience after seeing the show was the same for most. I instantly became a “phan” and could not stop singing the famous songs. The score was composed by Lloyd Webber and inspired by his professional singer wife, Sarah Brightman, who says,

“He’d pull me in and say, ‘Let’s try this out,’ and I’d sort of lead him through various things I knew, and together we — well, really he created everything, but I think I was definitely a muse at that time.”

Webber modeled the role of Christine after Sarah Brightman and she went on to perform in the very first show on January 26, 1988. The show would run for 25 more years after that. It is also acclaimed to be one of the most “successful entertainment franchises of all time” after making a whopping $5.6 billion worldwide.

phopeningnightcurtaincallnew

Opening night curtain call in 1988.
Courtesy of The Phantom Company

Broadway recently celebrated their 25th anniversary at the Majestic Theater with many of the people that performed in the original cast. Peter Joback, who currently plays the part of the Phantom, was actually introduced at the 25th anniversary, although he played parts in many other shows before. Samantha Hill, who plays the part of Chrisitna Daae, also made her debut to Broadway as well. The two performers had both been in several shows before but were now rising to the top with their star appearances in Broadway. The special part of the 25th anniversary, was that it brought back the members of the original cast, such as Michael Crawford as the Phantom and Sarah Brightman as Christine Daae. They have both continued performing in different ways. Crawford later on became more involved in film and Brightman went on to make her own album. To learn more about the original cast click here.

Phantom

Original and current leads of The Phantom of the Opera in New York.