How Long Will The Book Of Mormon Last?
Five years ago The Book of Mormon completely changed the musical theatre landscape proving that there is space for a show that reaches well beyond the traditional Broadway audience. And five years on, this show still continually sells out every performance. But can it last?
When it comes to the future of musical theatre, there is one big question on everyone’s lips. How long will The Book of Mormon-craze last?
When this musical came onto the scene five years ago, it broke every rule in the book. The topic was too contentious. The creators behind the project had never written a musical before (in fact, they were star cast!). There was a huge negative publicity campaign from Mormon institutions. And the language featured more swearing than the cast of Billy Elliot reeled out every night. Even Nostradamus couldn’t have predicted that this show would work . . . Yet it took the community by storm and still manages to generate an insane amount of interest five years down the track.
We have since worked out the reasons behind its success. Star casting writers (they will always be associated with the show resulting in longevity of prosperity). Negative publicity inspired potential audiences’ interest more than any marketing campaign. And most importantly, it tapped into a new group of people who wanted to tick seeing a Broadway show off their Bucket List but were never taken by any of the options who continue to flow through the door today.
But, as with any market leading product, the sharks have begun to circle. There is a greater awareness of a customer orientation in the artistic art form. Producers are backing more popular new musicals which hope to cut in on The Book of Mormon market.
Hamilton is a great example.
It has taken a controversial interpretation of a traditional story re-enacting the Founding Fathers’ story through modern day interpretations of immigrants. Set this to a musical style which strongly resonates with non-traditional audiences. Publicised the starry writer. And there’s plenty of swearing in this one as well!
But has it cut into the performance of The Book of Mormon?
The short answer is yes, but the results are hardly noticeable. Ticket prices have dropped slightly (I’m only talking a couple of dollars so don’t get too excited), but the seats are still as in demand as they were before this other musical monolith opened. The actual effect has been seen elsewhere.
For the first four and half years of The Book of Mormon run (pre-Hamilton), the other shows only had to compete with one highly accessible, in demand show which appealed equally to the musical theatre audience set and the wider community. Now they are competing with two, and it won’t be long until we see a third and a fourth follow in their tracks.
The downfall for the other shows is twofold. Musical theatre audiences are as desperate to see these shows as the non-traditional audiences so their priorities lie elsewhere – although they will fall back on other options. The other issues lies in the non-traditional audiences for whom it is a ticket to The Book of Mormon and Hamilton or bust. The argument that it brings more eyes to Broadway doesn’t necessarily translate into ticket sales for these audiences – but that’s a topic for another time.
The Book of Mormon may still be going strong with one other competitor five years down the track proving that there is space for two monoliths in the industry. But what will happen when more big name competitors start entering the industry? Will it be able to hold onto its title or will it need to revitalise its experience? That’s an issue for the future, but for now – five years in – the investors and producers are still sitting pretty!