In 2011, a new musical opened in New York’s Eugene O’Neill Theatre, unleashing a blitzkrieg of F-bombs and C-bombs and seeming bad taste the likes of which Broadway had never experienced. The show featured a cameo by Jesus Christ, countless instances of blasphemy, and references to female genital mutilation, sexually transmitted disease, terminal illness, domestic abuse, rape and dysentery in scenes of Third World squalor.
The Book of Mormon went on to win nine Tony Awards, including for best musical, and a Grammy Award for best musical theatre album. It opened in London’s West End in 2013 and arrives in Melbourne in February. In musical theatre terms, it’s bigger than Jesus.
Composer, lyricist and librettist Robert Lopez has written some of the filthiest, wickedest musical numbers ever to make it to the Great White Way. Before The Book of Mormon, his collaboration with South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, 2003’s Avenue Q, included numbers with titles such as The Internet is for Porn and Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.
On the other hand, with his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez he has written songs for Disney’s 2011 Winnie-the-Pooh feature film, a Finding Nemo stage musical for a Disney theme park and, most notably, for the 2014 Disney juggernaut Frozen, including its inexorable pop paean Let It Go.
“It’s just different parts of me,” says Lopez, who also became the world’s youngest EGOT (an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony winner) in 2014. At 41, he has a smile that seems to suggest rascally goings-on. “I think all adults have that dissonance of being a little bit subversive and wanting to say things they shouldn’t say and, at the same time, wanting to be a good citizen and teach the next generation the way.”
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