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“We’re trying to do something really different. If we wanted to do `South Park: The Musical’ we could have done that. It probably would have made a lot more money,” Stone says. “We wanted to do something … a little more sophisticated.”

They’ve mulled the idea of a Mormon musical since college and found that their dream was shared by Lopez, whom they met after watching and loving “Avenue Q,” a musical that featured foul-mouthed puppets and sassy songs. The three were determined not to waiver from their original mission: a musical.

“Even though there were a few times where we got tempted during the process to go, `Oh, let’s just make this a movie’ _ because it would be already out on DVD by now _ it’s great we stuck through it and did it this way.”

Picking on Mormons isn’t new for the “South Park” dudes: In Season 7, they also went after The Church of Latter-day Saints, mostly by mocking participants as relentlessly cheery and by humming “dum, dum, dum” over the animated stories about founder Joseph Smith. It’s not personal, they insist.

“Mormons are pretty darn good at turning the other cheek,” says Parker.

“They’re really good at being really nice,” agrees Stone.

The two, both atheists, don’t anticipate the same sort of backlash they got when a radical Muslim group was angered after they depicted the prophet Muhammad in a bear suit. Why not? For one thing, the Mormon church has been, in a word, polite.

“The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening,” the church says in a statement, “but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.”

To be sure, the musical is not terribly anti-Mormon or even very anti-religious. Both Stone and Parker say they consider themselves optimistic people who try to strip away cynicism and reveal humanity beneath.

“If you’re going to satirize something _ if you’re going to make a point about something _ you have an obligation to present the people as real people,” says Parker. “If you want it to work, you have to have the heart there.”

That means jokes about bodily functions or misbehaving celebrities have had to be cut if it doesn’t fit the musical, something of which the new Broadway playwrights have had to remind themselves as they put the finishing touches on “The Book of Mormon.” A two-hour musical, after all, is quite different from creating a 22-minute episode of their topical TV show.

“I think when we do it best _ sometimes we hit it and sometimes we don’t _ is when the characters do something emotionally true to that story. Then it’s a real story. “

Which brings us back to the original question: Is nothing sacred to these men?

No, they say. Nothing can be ruled out for ridicule.

“As long as it’s done in the right way,” says Parker.

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