Monday, July 7, 2014 | 9:30 p.m.
Most touring musicals require a few performances to generate positive buzz in a community.
But not “The Book of Mormon” in its boundlessly successful run at the Smith Center. The strong word-of-mouth accounts of the show percolated early.
Specifically, during intermission of the first performance.
“People were still laughing from the first act as they were standing in line at the concessions,” Smith Center President Myron Martin said today, a day after “BOM,” as we came to know it, finished its four-week stay at Reynolds Hall. “They were repeating lines back to each other. It was amazing.”
“The Book of Mormon” opened with expectations as high as the heavens in which the angel Moroni (who in this musical sounded a lot like Mr. Garrison from “South Park,” fittingly enough) descended to counsel Joseph Smith in 1823. But that lofty hype was met — and maybe surpassed.
“It far, far exceeded expectations,” Martin said. “The biggest challenge of a show this popular and successful and good is having to turn away so many friends who wanted to buy tickets.”
Some gold-plated nuggets as “The Book of Mormon” pulled out of Las Vegas after Sunday night’s show:
• As Martin promised, “Every ticket to every show sold out.” That’s about 64,000 tickets, total, for the entire run.
• Martin was on vacation in Lahaina on the island of Maui in Hawaii for two weeks. While away, he received texts every day from people asking for tickets to a “BOM” performance.
• “BOM” straddled the end of the last fiscal year (ending June 30) and the start of the current fiscal year. “For the last three weeks of June, to end with the strong numbers from ‘Book of Mormon’ was a perfect way to cap off last year,” Martin said, noting the successful runs of “Evita,” “Once,” “War Horse” and “Les Miserables” over that 12-month span. “To start the first week of July and kick off the new season with a bang is remarkable for us.”
• The production that most closely reflects the high hype of “BOM” has been “Wicked,” due to return for its own four-week residency in October. “We’ll see every ticket sold for ‘Wicked,’ again, the show that started the phenomenon of getting tickets early or risk being shut out of a show,” Martin said. “And now we’re looking forward to ‘Ghost’ (Aug. 12-17), and then we’re launching ‘Kinky Boots’ (Sept. 4-14), which is an amazing performance and another must-see type of production.”
• Even beyond those shows, the Smith Center Broadway Series for 2014-’15 is simply loaded. “Pippin,” which Martin saw in New York and deemed “spectacular,” is in town Nov. 25-30; "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” plays Jan. 20-25; “Nice Work If You Can Get It” plays Feb. 24-March 1; “Newsies” is March 17-22; “Cinderella” is April 28-May 3; and “Annie” is May 26-31.
As Martin says, “It’s a big lineup,” the momentum for which was generated by a group of missionaries, a book and an audience primed to be converted.