'Avenue Q' Composer On His New Musical With 'South Park' Duo

The Tony Award-winning Broadway musical "Avenue Q" may owe its existence to Stan, Kyle and Cartman.

So says Robert Lopez, who wrote the songs for "Avenue Q" with Jeff Marx and cites the exuberantly profane 1999 animated film "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" as a key influence.

" 'South Park' the movie is one of the greatest musicals ever," Lopez says. "I don't think there would've been an 'Avenue Q' without the 'South Park' movie."

So in 2003 when "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone came to see "Avenue Q" in New York, Lopez didn't hesitate to invite them out for a drink after the show. During their conversation, the trio casually discussed upcoming projects and Lopez mentioned he'd been interested in writing a musical about the Book of Mormon.

"And they said, 'No way, that's what we've bee wanting to do for 10 years,' " Lopez recalls.The writers soon decided to collaborate on the music and script for what eventually became "The Book of Mormon," a new musical opening March 24 at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in New York. The satirical production follows two young Mormon missionaries who are sent to Africa to spread the word of their faith.

"It's politically incorrect and it's offensive, but it's a traditional Broadway show and has a traditional uplifting ending," Lopez says. "It's about faith and someone who loses their faith, then regains it in a way that's stronger than before."

Lopez says the collaborative process with Parker and Stone differed sharply from his experience working on "Avenue Q" with Marx, when the two composers "were ruthless about knocking down ideas we didn't like."

By contrast, Lopez says, Parker and Stone "showed me a different way of working, where you don't say 'no' at first, you just bust out a lot of material and see where it leads, and later on apply the filter of editing. That was a revelation to me-I really liked working that way."

Lopez, Parker and Stone haven't yet discussed what they'd like to do with "The Book of Mormon" beyond its Broadway run. But Lopez says he'd like to see the release of a cast album in the near future.

"Right now we're getting this production done and making it as good as it can be," he says. "And then, depending on the reaction, hopefully there will be some future life for it."