This week, Denver audiences are the first to receive the blessings of the "Book of Mormon" musical away from its Broadway run in New York City, where it was first revealed.
The sold-out run opened with preview performances on Wednesday, with the first press show scheduled for Sunday.
Producers decided the Colorado hometown of Trey Parker and Matt Stone (of Comedy Central's "South Park" fame) would be the ideal place to launch the smash musical's first national tour and the Denver market responded. All 23 shows during the show's run, which continues through Sept. 2 at the 2,400-plus seat Denver Center, sold out within five hours of going on sale in late January.
This puts Salt Lake City, a market where the musical's namesake has greater and deeper name-recognition, in the curious position of waiting years before "Book of Mormon" knocks on our theater doors.
Salt Lake City theater crowds have typically waited four to seven years for big-name musicals such as "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Lion King," respectively, to hit town. Nobody knows the exact day or hour when "Book of Mormon" will take the stage in Utah's capital, but producers guarantee that it will.
Launching the musical's first national tour from Salt Lake City instead of Denver would have put the focus more squarely on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, rather than the musical, said Meredith Blair, president of The Booking Group, the show's New York City promoter.
"It's about Mormons, but it's also about faith," Blair said. "It just happened to be about Mormons. It's certainly nothing they [Parker and Stone] are shying away from. They love Mormons."
Blair promised the musical would eventually make it to Salt Lake City. "We just follow a pattern that's very typical for high-profile shows."
Translation: If you want to be the first on your block to see it live, you'd best be at your phone calling for tickets when the musical next plays Los Angeles' Pantages Theatre Sept. 5-Nov. 25 or San Francisco's Curran Theatre Nov. 27-Dec. 30. Otherwise, wait until early next year, when "Book of Mormon" plays in Portland and Seattle.
Yet Salt Lake City's geographical location is one factor in this waiting game. Once promoters get past the Rocky Mountains, Blair said, the dearth of markets nearby make arrangements difficult.
"There's no major rhyme or reason to it except routing," Blair said. "Population base venue size, and subscriber base all play a part. The current size of venues in Salt Lake City does not make the market competitive."
Mention of venue size is music to the ears of those advocating for the prospective Utah Performing Arts Center. The 2,500-seat venue, slated for 135 S. Main St., received a big boost Tuesday, when Salt Lake County Council to invest $28.2 million toward the $110 million facility. On Wednesday, Mayor Ralph Becker announced that HKS Architects, in conjunction with Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, will design the theater, and Layton Construction will build it.
The Broadway-style theater could open as soon as March 2016. If forces align, a new Salt Lake City stage would be ready for Elders Kevin Price and Arnold Cunningham, the musical's central characters, as they sing and stumble through Uganda for converts.
"We're not the only the city asking when it's going to be here. Everybody wants this show," said Steve Boulay, chief operating officer of MagicSpace, which books Broadway touring shows at Capitol Theatre and other Salt Lake City venues. "We're going to see this show in Salt Lake City, we just don't know when."
Theater traffic flows from Idaho and Wyoming and other adjacent states to Salt Lake City when big-ticket shows like "Lion King" and "Wicked" play at the Capitol Theatre. That's one reason the proposed Utah Performing Arts Venue is needed, he said.
"This will pay dividends in the next 100 years," said Boulay, who returned this week from a vacation in China. "When I look at economies doing well, they're quite consistent across the board with investing in infrastructure."
'Book of Mormon'
When • Aug. 14-Sept. 2
Where • Denver Center for the Performing Arts, 1101 13th St., Denver
Info • Sold out. Call 303-893-400 or visit www.denvercenter.org/home.aspx.
Also • Tickets are on sale for the Sept. 5-Nov. 25 run at Los Angeles' Pantages Theatre, and the Dec. 11-Dec. 3 run at Chicago's Bank of America Theatre; Sale dates haven't yet been announced for the Nov. 27-Dec. 30 at San Francisco's Curran Theatre, the Jan. 1-6 run at Portland's Keller Auditorium, or the Jan. 8-Jan. 20 run at Seattle's The Paramount.
Info • Tour dates and ticket info at www.bookofmormonthemusical.com