The hype around Book of Mormon (the musical) has been incandescent. Aside from it winning millions of Tonys and being massively sold out in New York (while we in London could just wait and hope!), it had the even WORSE reputation of actually being a good musical … with good songs … and a traditional aesthetic at its core. And when it finally came to London, the cheapest seats were … £37.50. This was NOT what a budget conscious theater lover wanted to hear. “Well!” I thought, “I can get cheap tickets during previews!” Aaand … previews came and went and the deals were still not affordable. “It’ll run for a while and then the prices will go down!” Six months later, nada. And the ticket lottery? Reports from Twitter were of a hundred people waiting in line for those twenty one golden tickets – basically, waste your afternoon there and still get nothing plus you’re left with a wasted evening on your hands.
So what’s the secret to getting cheap tickets to Book of Mormon? It’s easy: buy the £37.50 tickets a few months in advance, go with a group of ten or more and get the “top price” tickets for £49, or wait in line day after day and see if you have luck with the lottery. There is nothing cheap to be had ANYWHERE, so give up and fork over. Or wait for another two years – Hairspray finally dropped in price, so it could happen to this musical, as well. Patience is a tightwad’s second best friend.
But I am not patient. And I had an old friend ask me to go with, and, er, I thought he was going for the group rate, so I said yes … only to discover he’d booked us in for £65 tickets. Man. This is what happens when you let other people buy. So I grit my teeth and just hoped that through some miracle it would be worth it. God knows I had get to see a musical that I really thought merited anything more than £35.
Good news and bad news: it was actually good enough to justify the cost. I’M SO SORRY TO TELL YOU THIS. I am the home of affordable theater, I love to tell people that yes, you can go to the theater on a budget, but in the “home truths” department, this stuff costs money to do and kind of frequently, it’s because shows are either losing money (West End) or the cast/crew is not being paid (or getting just peanuts – true for many fringe shows) that we’re able to see full-on shows like Southwark Playhouse’s Titanic or Malachite Theater’s titus Andronicus for prices I consider a fraction of their true value.
The prices for Book of Mormon do reflect what the market can bear, but it’s still less than it cost in New York, and I bet there’s still a bit of subsidy going on. What do you get for your money? A completely right-on cast singing great songs with the kind of joy and enthusiasm you really only see in a show that is at it’s very peak of popularity. I knew they’d been doing it night after night, but it still felt fresh. And, well, it was, because as a old-school musical fan I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting to see a show I could really just lose myself in. Book of Mormon is, at its heart, and old-fashioned buddy comedy that actually manages to never be mean about either the religion most of its characters follow or the situation in really poor countries in Africa. It was funny, but it was still very real … well, except for where the story went (and the hysterical “Satan dancing with Johnny Cochrane and Jeffrey Dahmer” dream sequence, LOVED IT!). It sent me out into the night feeling utterly happy about everything. And, really, that feeling is one that it’s hard to put a price on.
(This review is for a performance attended in early August. It’s carrying on until, um, 2014, at least. And the Prince of Wales theater is totally classy and glamorous – I’m glad I got to see it.)