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The Book of Mormon's Grammy Award Win

Sarah Moore reflects on the eligibility of cast albums, who gets the Grammy, and why the award isn't on the telecast.

By New York City

Last night, the 54th Annual Grammy Awards were held in Los Angeles, and The Book of Mormon garnered an additional award to add to its nine Tonys: the Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album. Book of Mormon beat out two other competitors, which were the cast albums for the current revivals of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Anything Goes.

This year's Grammy nominees had to have been released during September 1, 2010 to September 30, 2011 to be eligible. This means that the Grammys left out recordings such as Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Catch Me If You Can, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and The Scottsboro Boys. (The new Follies album, for example, will be eligible for next year's Grammys.) The award is not only focused on new musicals, as the revival of West Side Story won in 2010.

It should be noted that the Grammys generally focus on the most commercially popular shows, and the shows that win the Best Musical or Best Revival Tony Award tend to win the Grammy as well (for example Spamalot, In The Heights, Jersey Boys, Spring Awakening) with one notable exception being last year's win for the cast album of American Idiot, rather than the Tony winning Memphis. West Side Story won the Grammy and did not win the Tony, but the score of West Side Story is arguably more familiar to Grammy voters because of its famous film version (although the show it beat out, Hair, is not exactly unknown).

As listed on the Grammys website for the 2012 award, the award description is as follows: "Award to the principle vocalist(s) and the album producer(s) of 51% or more playing time of the album. The lyricist(s) and composer(s) of a new score are eligible for an Award if they have written and/or composed a new score which comprises 51% or more playing time of the album." The main winners of this award are composers/lyricists/producers Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez, producers Anne Garefino, Stephen Oremus and Scott Rudin and principal soloists Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells. The album was produced by Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight Records, well known for making musical theater cast albums. They won their first Grammy for In the Heights.

All three nominated cast albums are a great addition to any musical theater fan's collection; they are well produced and capture all the excellent performances from this year. The Book of Mormon album, especially, is very complete, including some parts of the dialogue to make the story easier to understand if you haven't seen the show, which I consider an important feature of a cast album. A cast album should capture the show, so it can be remembered and preserved beyond its life on the stage.

The musical theater album award is not given out on the telecast, but in the pre-show ceremony (comparable to the artistic awards not shown on the Tony telecast). Trey Parker and Bobby Lopez were there to accept. It would definitely help Broadway if these shows were eligible to perform on the telecast, or even to give out the awards during this time. The Book of Mormon would have been a great choice to start this trend (with the South Park creators to its credit), but I guess Broadway is still not mainstream enough for the Grammys, even though I think it's fair to say that Book of Mormon is known in the public conscience, at least by name.

However, I think it definitely helped the American Idiot team last year that the cast performed with Green Day to promote the show when Green Day performed on the Grammys in 2010. The Grammy team was familiar with the project and the creators (the band has won five Grammys). In that vein, I like to think that a truly excellent cast album has the ability to beat whatever seems to be the previous favorite.

Fortunately, The Book of Mormon, like last night's six-time winner Adele, happens to be excellent in addition to being known in the mainstream music culture. While award shows are often intensely political and always subjective, sometimes the Grammys make the right choice.


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