The theme for April 2012 at Musical Cyberspace is “Single-Song Showstoppers”, a series of big numbers sung by a featured characters in a show – typically their only solo, although they might sing minor bits and pieces elsewhere – each of which raise the roof.
Today’s single-song showstopper is “Turn It Off”, from The Book of Mormon, a musical comedy by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone. The song is sung by Elder McKinley, a role that was introduced by Rory O’Malley, and Missionaries
The Setup: Elder McKinley is the District Leader of the Mormon Church’s station in Uganda. Secretly gay but in denial of his feelings, “Turn It Off” is philosophy he uses to keep his feelings in check.
The Song: “Turn It Off” is not the funniest song in The Book of Mormon. Nor is it the most technically well-crafted: there are a handful of classic not-quite true rhymes here, like ‘time’/’line’. Some might say that doesn’t matter, but many people tend to knock the skill it takes to craft a song using true rhyme and in a witty comedy song, it’s one of the things that’s simply a must. So it’s clear that “Turn It Off” is probably not, as written, and speaking objectively, one of the best songs in the show. Yet, it is one of my favourites and it is a genuine, character-defining showstopper for Elder McKinley, with his missionary buddies in support. A great deal of that has to do with the phenomenally clever staging of the number. Starting off in a manner that reflects a simple conversation between the Mormon missionaries, the number shifts gear with a tap break that develops into a number with sequin clad waistcoats and clap-controlled light switches. And thus, a piece of charming dramatic writing turns into a moment of sheer theatrical magic! Their rhymes may not be perfect, but those South Park boys, Robert Lopez and director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw know what they’re doing.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on “Turn It Off”. Click on the comments link at the end of this post and share them with us!