Tony Award-winning songwriter Robert Lopez, who received a Grammy nomination for the cast album of Avenue Q, is back for seconds with The Book of Mormon, which he authored along with Tony and Emmy-winning "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
"I never thought I'd be up for any of these kind of awards," Lopez told Playbill.com Dec. 1. "Going into musical theatre you don't assume you're going to have chances to win big awards like this. It's always a huge surprise."
Lopez said he stayed up to watch the nominations and spoke to Parker on the phone shortly after they got the good news. "I was talking to Trey last night, since I've been through this before with Avenue Q and this is his first Grammy nomination," Lopez said. "I told him, 'You know, the musical theatre portion gets lumped in with the Polka albums, spoken word/comedy albums and meditation tapes,' and Trey said, 'Oh, God, it's presented across the street at PF Chang's, right?'"
The cast album of The Book of Mormon, which has been a huge seller since its release last spring, also made headlines for being the first musical to arrive on the Billboard Top 10 chart since the cast album of Hair was released in 1969. The Book of Mormon also over-sold the musical cast albums of Dreamgirls and Rent, which ranked in the top 20.
"We had no idea what it was going to be – you never do," Lopez said of The Book of Mormon's mammoth success. "I think we all assumed it would be less of a big hit and more controversial. That it would get a dialogue going. I think it did get a dialogue going, but there was very little controversy, and that surprised us all. The popularity of it also surprised us all." There's a great deal of pressure that goes into recording a Broadway cast album, which will stand as the definitive record of a new show. Lopez said he and the creative team, including Tony-winning Book of Mormon conductor-orchestrator Stephen Oremus, worked hard to give listeners the experience of being in the theatre.
A majority of musical cast albums are recorded with the orchestra and cast performing in the studio simultaneously, but for The Book of Mormon, the band was brought in first, with the cast to follow the next day. Lopez said the trick was filming Oremus conducting the band, so that when the cast came in to lay down vocals they were able to follow Oremus on video for nuances and pauses within the music.
"The pressure was to make sure the orchestra had the right spirit first and then the singers could come in and just nail it," Lopez recalled. "I remember Nikki James came in and just sang 'Sal Tlay Ka Siti' in maybe two takes. It was the very last thing of the evening – it was like Zen archery."
Musical appearances on the Grammy Award telecast aren't all that common, though the cast of American Idiot and even Patti LuPone, singing her Evita signature tune, found themselves center stage on Grammy night.
Lopez is hopeful with all of The Book of Mormon's exposure, they might snag a chance to perform. Who knows, maybe they could do a mash-up with Lady Gaga. "That's a good idea, she could start in full missionary outfit and end up in just a tie," Lopez laughed.
The track list for The Book of Mormon follows:
"Two By Two"
"You and Me (But Mostly Me)"
"Hasa Diga Eebowai"
"Turn It Off"
"I Am Here for You"
"Sal Tlay Ka Siti"
"Making Things Up Again"
"Spooky Mormon Hell Dream"
"I Am Africa"
"Joseph Smith America Moses"
"Tomorrow Is a Latter Day"