March 25, 2011 / 9:34 PM / 8 years ago

"South Park" creators score raves on Broadway

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A satirical Broadway show about Mormons who travel from Utah to Uganda by the creators of “South Park” scored rave reviews on Friday from critics who called it the best musical comedy since “The Producers.”

South Park creators Matt Stone (L) and Trey Parker pose for a photo in New York March 18, 2011. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

“The Book of Mormon,” which was seven years in the making for Trey Parker and Matt Stone, opened on the Great White Way on Thursday night to reviews that said it balanced clever, humorous songs and lyrics with heartfelt reflections on faith.

For Broadway doubters, “the ones who say that heaven on Broadway does not exist, that it’s only some myth our ancestors dreamed up, I am here to report that a newborn, old-fashioned, pleasure-giving musical has arrived,” the New York Times said.

The Times said it perfectly balanced a sharp, irreverent tone, which is “blasphemous, scurrilous and more foul-mouthed than David Mamet on a blue streak,” with themes that test the ideals of faith and has a heart “as pure as that of a Rodgers and Hammerstein show.”

The newspaper also highlighted several catchy numbers, including about repressed Mormons, some with gay longings, called “Turn It Off” and “Joseph Smith American Moses” about the church’s founder, Joseph Smith Jr.

Showbiz trade publication Variety said “Book of Mormons” surpassed musical comedy Tony winners “Spamalot” and “Avenue Q” and applauded lead actors Andrew Rannells playing an uptight, overachieving Mormon and Josh Gad as his bumbling companion, as well as actress Nikki M. James as an African local.

“Broadway hasn’t seen anything like it since Mel Brooks came to town with ‘The Producers,’ only ‘Mormon’ has better songs,” Variety said. “

While the show sends up the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Mormon leaders have avoided returning fire, saying in a statement: “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.”

Creators Stone and Parker told Reuters recently that rather than setting out to “bash Mormons,” they preferred to make a “very traditional, classic musical.”

The New York Post seemed to agree, saying the show “is less about religion than (about) credulity and the need to believe, as well as the singular American gift for dreaming up great stories and enduring symbols — and selling them to everyone on the planet.”

The Wall Street Journal was among the few publications extending a sharp critique, saying while it had cheery songs, it was “slick and smutty” and “flabby, amateurish and very, very safe.” (Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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