This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
As I was following the Tony Awards online last Sunday (I'm an award-show addict what can you do?), I noticed a recurring theme in the Twitter feeds and live-blog posts as Trey Parker and Matt Stone's "The Book of Mormon" won one award after another.
That theme ran something like this: "How's this musical going to play in Utah?"
I know a lot of Utahns who can't wait to find out.
The conventional wisdom outside Utah is that any attempt to stage "The Book of Mormon" a profanity-filled tale about LDS missionaries in over their heads on a mission in Uganda would be met with pitchforks, buckets of tar and bags of feathers in the sacred land of Brigham Young and Donny Osmond.
Inside Utah, we know better.
I'm firmly of the opinion that tickets to "The Book of Mormon" either a national touring production or a version staged by one of our local theater companies would be a quick seller in Salt Lake City. Computer traffic would snarl from the online sales, and lines would form for blocks outside the box office.
I discovered that I'm not alone in this opinion. The people whose job it is to know the Salt Lake City theater market think so, too.
"It would be a big hit," said John Ballard, CEO of Broadway Across America Utah, the entity that brings touring Broadway shows to Salt Lake City. "If a show is a giant hit on Broadway, and this one is, … it will sell anywhere in the United States."
Ballard knows Utahns will go see "The Book of Mormon" musical because they already have.
"If it doesn't come here, people will fly to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Denver to see it, because they've already gone to New York," Ballard said.
"It would probably do very well," agreed Charles Morey, artistic director of Pioneer Theatre Company. "It's the hottest ticket on Broadway right now." How hot? "I haven't been able to get a ticket, and I've got connections," Morey said.
Jerry Rapier, producing director of Plan-B Theatre Company, said Utahns would go "in droves." "Both LDS and non-LDS folks," Rapier says. "Why? Because it's a fantastic show, the most fun I've had in the theater in several years. And if you can't laugh a little at yourself, what's the point?"
If there's a concern among these theater folk, it would be how to present the show without overly offending more sensitive season-ticket buyers.
Morey said that if PTC were to stage "The Book of Mormon," the production would be sold as an add-on to the regular theater season, the way PTC is now doing with "Rent."
That's not likely to happen anytime soon, though. Morey noted that "The Book of Mormon," which is selling out on Broadway, won't be licensed to regional theaters for years.
Over at Salt Lake Acting Company, they're not waiting around. This summer, in the new version of SLAC's perennial Utah-centric satire, "Saturday's Voyeur," writers Allen Nevins and Nancy Borgenicht threw in a parody of the Tony winner. "Voyeur" previews June 29-30, opens July 1 and plays through Sept. 4.
"Our parody in 'Voyeur' is that the 'Book of Mormon' musical would be the first production in [Mayor] Ralph Becker's 2,400-seat theater," said SLAC co-executive director Cynthia Fleming, referring to the city's grand plans for a larger-than-Broadway-style theater downtown.
What's a joke in "Saturday's Voyeur," though, may become truth, as the touring production may not arrive here until that big theater is built.
"The Book of Mormon" won't start touring until December 2012 in Colorado, Parker and Stone's home state. It's a safe bet that bigger cities, like Los Angeles and Chicago, will get a crack at it before Salt Lake City does though, considering Parker and Stone's puckish senses of humor, they might want to bring it here sooner just to see the looks on our faces.
They, like many people outside of Utah, may be surprised when they are confronted with Salt Lake City's demographics. The population of Utah's capital city has a lower percentage of active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints than in the rest of the state. It's a blue island in a red state which is why Republican legislators want to carve it up into bite-sized chunks every time redistricting comes around.
Salt Lake City is also more cosmopolitan than is commonly believed. We enjoy challenging theater, even if (as my editor, Ellen Fagg Weist, has pointed out to me) touring shows of more adult-oriented musicals such as "Spring Awakening" and "Avenue Q" didn't click with mainstream audiences here.
The contingents of non-Mormons, ex-Mormons, Jack Mormons and just plain curious Mormons should be enough to fill any theater in Salt Lake City that would stage "The Book of Mormon" even a theater that right now exists only in Mayor Becker's imagination.
Sean P. Means writes The Cricket in daily blog form, at blogs.sltrib.com/moviecricket Follow him on Twitter at @moviecricket, or "like" him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/themoviecricket.