It's Christmas come early for Broadway in Chicago and Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez, the combined forces for Broadway in Chicago's holiday stage hit The Book of Mormon.
Long before even Halloween, Parker, Stone and Lopez, the funny and creative minds behind the new musical with a silly spin on salvation, were already all smiles since the long-awaited Windy City run of their production already sold out the initial block of tickets from December 11 to March 3 at Bank of America Theatre in Chicago.
Now, a new extension of tickets for performances through June 2, 2013, are selling at an equally brisk pace for this winner of nine Tony Awards (including Best Musical).
The Book of Mormon features book, music and lyrics by trio Parker, Stone and Lopez. Parker and Stone are the four-time Emmy Award-winning creators of the altered approach animated series, South Park and Tony Award-winner Lopez is co-creator of the long-running hit musical comedy Avenue Q. The musical is choreographed by Tony Award-winner Casey Nicholaw of Monty Python's Spamalot and The Drowsy Chaperone, and is directed by Nicholaw with Parker.
As for the question Parker, Stone and Lopez are asked the most about the show, they say it never varies: How did you come up with the idea for The Book of Mormon?
And their response is a dialogue of answers that makes the entire "light bulb" moment sound very "by chance" as the three explain it:
Trey Parker: "Matt and I went to see Avenue Q when it opened in 2003, and we were like, 'Wow, this is actually really good.' When it was over I was thinking, 'This is exactly the kind of thing I've always dreamed about doing.'"
Matt Stone: "During intermission, we saw that we were thanked in the Playbill. 'Well,' we thought, 'that's weird.'"
Bobby Lopez: "That's because I saw the 'South Park' movie when it open in 1999, and I just thought, 'Oh, my God, this is exactly what I want to be doing.' A week after that, the idea came to me for Avenue Q."
Trey Parker: "It happened purely by coincidence that Bobby showed up that night, he introduced himself and we went across the street for a drink."
Matt Stone: "Bobby is younger than Trey and me, so he looked at us like elder statesmen and asked what he should do next. We asked what he wanted to do, and he said, 'I want to write something about Joseph Smith and the Mormons.' "
Bobby Lopez: When I said Joseph Smith, they were like, 'We've wanted to do that, too!' They had it in their heads to do some kind of Joseph Smith musical, but never did. I said, 'If you guys want to do that, that’s fine, because I'd really love to see what you do, more than what I would do.'"
Trey Parker: "It just became ridiculously obvious that we should team up and do something about Mormons. So we said, 'No, let's do it together.'"
And now, after opening in New York on Broadway in March 2011, the musical is the winner of nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score (Parker, Lopez, Stone), Best Book (Parker, Lopez, Stone), Best Direction (Nicholaw and Parker), Best Featured Actress (Nikki M. James), Best Scenic Design (Scott Pask), Best Lighting Design (Brian MacDevitt), Best Sound Design (Brian Ronan) and Best Orchestrations (Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus).
While the New York production on Broadway is still going strong with an open run, in August 2012, the first national tour launched. However, Chicago's production is its own original standing run production mounted by Parker, Lopez and Stone in conjunction with Broadway in Chicago.
As for the question, "How would you describe the show to someone who is a traditional musical theater fan?" Lopez knows just how to answer. "The musical is a machine that's designed to bring you down and raise you up, and to give you a positive, uplifting experience," Lopez says. "I want the musical to show people the nadir of human experience. For this musical, it's about faith. It's about religious feeling. And I think we show a character that loses his faith, and we give his faith back to him in a better way at the end. And I hope that the experience of the audience mirrors that, whether it's a religious experience or just feeling entertained."