I love it when my pop culture favorites get their due – respect from their peers and a nice piece of hardware. The accolades roll so trippingly off my tongue. Academy Award Winner Christian Bale. Grammy Winners Phoenix. As of last night, I can add to that list: Tony Winners Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Their The Book of Mormon won a commanding nine Tonys, including awards for Best Musical, Book and Original Score.
The South Park guys have it in their power to save Broadway. This may be a shocking concept to some, but those folks have likely not watched a lot of South Park (now in an odds-defying 15th season), or bothered to seek out Matt and Trey’s filmography. I won’t soon forget the exuberance of the crowd gathered at the Ford Amphitheater back in 2008, my friends and I among them, for a sing-along to the 1999 musical South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut. The devilish fun of hooting “Shut your fuckin’ face, uncle fucker” in public aside, I was struck by what a well-structured, actually GOOD musical it is. A score by veteran composer Marc Shaiman only upped the stakes.
The Oscars agreed in 1999, bestowing a Best Original Song nomination upon Bigger, Longer and Uncut‘s “Blame Canada”. “Blame Canada” (not to mention Aimee Mann’s “Save Me” from Magnolia) infamously lost to Phil Collins’s MOR “You’ll Be in My Heart” from Disney’s Tarzan – so, of course, Collins was swiftly lampooned on South Park.
Parker and Stone’s best and silliest songs lodge themselves in your head. Walk up to a fan, sing any of these passages, and they will have to complete the verse, just like Cartman when confronted with Styx’s “Come Sail Away”:
“The sky is blue, and all the leaves are green…”
“What makes a man? Is it the power in his hands?”
“America! Fuck yeah!!!”
Even a simple “Weeellll…” will do the trick.
The Book of Mormon looks to have that same irreverent spirit, boosted by Parker and Stone’s partnership on the musical with Avenue Q‘s Robert Lopez.
It really warms my heart to see subversive musicals like Mormon and Avenue Q take the Tonys’ top honor. Broadway, much like Hollywood, appears to have hitched its fortunes to familiar names and properties to reel in the nostalgia buck. Young Frankenstein, the movie? Hilarious. Young Frankenstein, the musical? Not so much. Worse still, once-edgy, provocative properties like Hairspray and Saturday Night Fever become staid after being run through the Broadway filter. Perhaps Broadway producers will take a cue from Mormon’s success and give the go-ahead to more original, boundary-pushing works. While I’m sure it’s great fun to go to Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and take bets as to if any performers will be injured during the evening’s performance, I choose instead to believe in The Book of Mormon.
Strength and peace, Angie
Three by Trey Parker and Matt Stone:
“Shpadoinkle” from Cannibal! The Musical (1993)
“Blame Canada” from South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (1999)
Performed by Robin Williams at the 2000 Academy Awards
“I Believe” from The Book of Mormon (2011)
Performed by Andrew Rannells at the 2011 Tony Awards