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“Silence” Returns; Mother Washes Mouth Out With Soap

October 25th, 2011

Photo by Carol Rosegg.

The delightfully profane musical parody Silence: The Musical returns to Off-Broadway tonight to begin an open-ended commercial run. The acclaimed little show that could moves to a new home at the 9th Space Theatre at PS 122 and features a fresh Hannibal Lecter with serious comedy and stage chops, David Garrison (Married With Children).

It’s official; we now have not one but two major music theater hits in New York city that feature a chorus of people singing the final frontier of obscenities, the one word that still seems to make people blanch (and I don’t mean Dubois), the c-word.  (The word is prominently featured in Silence‘s “If I Could Smell Her C***” and The Book of Mormon‘s “Hasa Diga” on the immortal line “F*** you, God, in the ass, mouth and c***”.) Welcome to the Golden Age of Potty Mouthed Music Theater.

I enjoyed both shows so no puritanical judgements here. In both cases, the audience knows what they’re getting into and, particularly with Mormon, there is a sweetness to the endeavors that makes the harsh language a vital part of the journey the characters must go on. It also got me thinking about the history of obscenities in music theater, that most scrubbed of American art forms…and I need your help, oh knowledgeable readers!

Stephen Sondheim famously wrote in his recent book Finishing the Hat that he had wanted to be the first lyricist to use the f-word in a song and had ended “Officer Krupke” from West Side Story with that expletive. It was ultimately changed to “Krup You” instead (a change Sondheim insists is better) when the producers worried it might make the cast album unreleasable.  But, if it wasn’t that show, then what WAS the first Broadway musical to feature the f-bomb in a lyric?

I’ve searched and racked my brain to try to locate it and can’t be certain. Spring Awakening certainly laid the gauntlet down by placing it in a song title. Rent featured it in a few songs, but the historical record (via Google) before that is murky. I’m counting on you, fearless readers, to help make this important contribution to the Broadway history books.  Send a comment to the blog that lists the show and song title you think dropped the f-bomb first.

And to inspire you, here’s an infamously obscenity laden clip from Hair. Needless to say, it is NSFW…

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