Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Rush, Adam. “Oh What a Beautiful Mormon: Rodgers and Hammerstein, Intertextuality, and The Book of Mormon.” Studies in Musical Theater 11, no. 1 (2017): 39–50.

The 2011 musical The Book of Mormon, created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (the creators of South Park), and Robert Lopez (co-creator of Avenue Q), is a widely intertextual work, referencing popular culture from Star Wars to The Lion King to The Music Man. The intertextuality goes deeper, however, with structural references to the “Golden Age” musicals of Rogers and Hammerstein. Despite the conspicuously offensive wrapping of The Book of Mormon, the musical relies on the musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein as models for both form and content. The two protagonists in the musical, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, young missionaries tasked with converting a Ugandan village, mirror the journey taken by Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music in their attempts to do good, and in their ultimate achievement of doing good by bending the rules. The penultimate scene of the musical, “Joseph Smith American Moses,” involves the Ugandans performing their misreading of the Mormon story, which mirrors the “Small House of Uncle Thomas” ballet from The King and I. Both scenes portray a culture confronted with western domination, but The Book of Mormon offers a more mature version by showing a community that creates and defines itself, rather than conforming to a Western one. Any intertextuality is subjective on the part of the reader, but The Book of Mormon is notable in the way it references a wide range of texts in a way that can reach a broader audience.

Works: Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone (music, lyrics, and book): The Book of Mormon.

Sources: Rodgers and Hammerstein: The Sound of Music (44–45), The King and I (45–47).

Index Classifications: 2000s, Popular

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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