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It's nearly time for the 2011 Tony Awards! And if a whopping 7 million people watched the awards last year, surely there are a dozen Popdose readers who care! Right? Molly Marinik shares her picks for Broadway's top prize.

BOTTOM LINE: The Book of Mormon exceeds expectations (in production value as well as use of expletives).

I am a sucker for musical theatre and all the joyously cheesy emotions it can generate.  I am a bigger sucker for musical comedy that can elicit sincere sentimentality while making me giggle.  Now, when a funny and endearing musical comedy’s foundation is actually a sophisticated underbelly that propels an intellectual agenda capable of enlightening its audience without pandering…well, I am simply smitten.  And this is how I feel about The Book of Mormon.

I want to hug Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez, and director Casey Nicholaw, for breathing much-needed life into Broadway, which has been consistently humdrum as of late. Jaded theatergoers will feel invigorated at this lively, original musical with loads of heart.  Anyone with an affinity for the type of humor utilized on South Park will delight in this inappropriate language and the totally incongruous spectacle that surrounds it. I hesitate to oversell, but I think I’m too late.

Photo by Sara Krulwich / NY Times

This past Broadway season felt off. The plays were quite good but the musicals were pretty disappointing, and the Tony Awards ceremony, which culminates the year and celebrates the successes, felt artificial and forced. The 2010-’11 season seems on track to give us much of the same: a clusterf*ck by way of extra-flashy productions and celebrity assignment. But it’s not all that dire. In fact there are a few shows that sound downright ideal.

It’s certainly business savvy to take a pre-existing, well-known story, or character, or cartoon, or persona, and adapt it for the Broadway stage. Apparently tourists (and locals, for that matter) are more comfortable seeing a familiar show rather than exploring the depths that the theatre world can offer in the way of artistry and entertainment.

I get it — the theatre-going crowd is often overwhelmed by the sleepless city itself. Or they’re too full of Olive Garden Times Square breadsticks. Or language barriers make Stoppard inaccessible. Fine. Point taken, Broadway producers. You have a product to sell.

Here are some of the new productions you can expect to be priced out of in the coming months. Prejudge for yourself.

51j9w3x1ql_sl500_aa240_South Park: The Complete Twelfth Season (2009, Paramount)
purchase this DVD collection from Amazon: DVD | Blu-ray

I haven’t been a steady watcher of South Park since its early days, right after Jesus and Santa Claus fought and Kenny died in every episode. Some time after the brilliant movie musical, South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut, catching new episodes became difficult, what with children running around and Comedy Central being broadcast on an east coast feed here in Los Angeles. By the time TiVo came around, South Park was off of my radar. Now in its 13th season, South Park continues to be the most consistently rude, obnoxious, vulgar and funniest damn show on television. What amazes me about what creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone pull off each week is how topical and current their storylines are. As Comedy Central began airing new episodes last week, they also released the 12th season as a three-DVD collection. When the opportunity presented itself to review this latest season of South Park on DVD, I was excited to look at a hit series with fresh eyes.

The new DVD collection includes all 14 episodes from the 12th season that ran March to November of 2008. Highlight episodes include “Over Logging,” in which the United States comes to a complete standstill when the Internet shuts down. Families travel west to internment camps in Silicon Valley where there is word that there may be some Internet. At the same time, the government and its team of scientists try to figure out what caused the Internet to shut down. “Over Logging” is representative of South Park at its best, blending the dustbowl destitution of The Grapes of Wrath with the fear and paranoia of any 1950s sci-fi horror movie.

“About Last Night” is the election episode that aired 24 hours after this past fall’s Presidential election. Although the production team began planning the episode three weeks in advance, they had to wait for the election results to actually finish the show. Thus, Parker, Stone and their crew completed “About Last Night” at the very last minute. Combining the actual outcome of the election with an Ocean’s Eleven heist (Obama is played as a George Clooney cool cat jewel thief) makes “About Last Night” smart, topical and very funny.

The 12th season also includes the infamous episode “The China Problem.” For those of you who don’t know about it, in this particular episode, Kyle, Stan and the gang all go to the movies to see the latest Indiana Jones adventure. To their horror, they witness their hero, Indiana Jones, getting raped by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg (literally). The show not only screamed what many fans felt after they walked out of the theater after Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but was also a perfect parody of crisis of consciousness movies like Sleepers. Besides the obvious outrageous nature of this episode, “The China Problem” showed that Parker and Stone still had major cojones by openly mocking a huge money-making film for their parent company, Paramount (not to mention two of the most powerful men in Hollywood).