In London, “The Book of Mormon” earned the largest single-day gross in theater history. In New York, it inspired ticket counterfeiters. And in Boston, competition for seats to the irreverent, Tony Award-winning show — which opens a three-week run at the Boston Opera House April 9 — has made it the hottest ticket in town, and the most expensive since “The Lion King” revival back in 2004.
Would you pay $250 per ticket? Or $400? Or $1,000? It’s that hot.
This is just the latest
triumph for “The Book of Mormon,” a musical penned by Matt Stone and Trey Parker of “South Park,’’ and “Avenue Q” cocreator Robert Lopez. Just as on Broadway, the religious satire, which follows two missionaries sent to a remote region of Africa, has led to a booming, high priced after-market on Craigslist, StubHub, and eBay.
“It’s a big deal,” says Catherine Peterson, executive director of the discount ticket outlet ArtsBoston. “We had to tell our board, ‘Don’t call me, we are not going to be able to get you house tickets.’ ”
Tickets in Boston all but disappeared within hours to the general public on Dec. 17. But if you’re willing to scour Broadway in Boston’s website, you might find a few single seats scattered throughout the run. Broadway in Boston, like other cities hosting the touring show, is also holding a lottery each night before the curtain goes up to offer a limited number of pairs and single tickets at $25.
Jim Maltz, an insurance agent in Canton, isn’t counting on winning one of those. Shut out of the original sale, Maltz has posted an ad on Craigslist in hopes of getting a pair of seats to surprise his girlfriend for her birthday. “Any day or night,” it reads in part. “Not a dealer or broker. If your plans fall through, give me a call.” The only calls he’s received so far: warnings that fake tickets are being sold online.
That was the case in New York in 2011 not long after the show opened, when a group of people showed up with seats that turned out to be counterfeit. An usher discovered it by trying to scan in the tickets, which were either the wrong color or didn’t weigh the same as a real ticket.
The last time Maltz wasn’t able to get tickets for a local show was the American Repertory Theatre’s popular 2011 production of “Porgy and Bess.” But one reason for that ticket crunch was the ART’s Loeb Drama Center is one-third smaller than the 1,700-seat Colonial.
Maltz said he knew “The Book of Mormon” was popular. He just didn’t think it would sell out so fast. And now he’s debating how much he’ll spend for tickets — if somebody responds to his ad with tickets to offer. “I’ve seen prices for $400,” he said. “It’s just so outrageous.”
Such prices are also pretty standard when you’re the hottest musical around. On Broadway, tickets to “The Book of Mormon” have been hard to come by, sold out for months in advance even though it’s been playing Broadway for two years. The producers have also charged more than for the typical Broadway show to make up for the limited size of the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in Manhattan. It hasn’t been a tough sell. “The Book of Mormon” recouped its $11.4 million capitalization after just nine months.
The touring show, which kicked off in Denver in August and is currently in Pittsburgh, hasn’t lagged, setting house records and also scoring top prices in the after-market made up largely of ticket brokers.
On the Broadway in Boston website, ticket prices in recent weeks were listed between $22 and $175, before any purchasing fees were applied. But finding anything at those prices now will be all but impossible. TicketNetwork, a Connecticut-based broker, reported that people are paying $250 a seat to see the touring version of “Mormon.” That’s $100 more than the second-hottest show on the site, “Wicked.” TicketNetwork, a website where people can buy or sell tickets, has even sold a few tickets for $1,000 each.
“There’s a fan base unique to ‘The Book of Mormon’ you don’t see with a lot of theater shows,” said Allison Reitz, a marketing associate at TicketNetwork. “You have big followers of ‘South Park.’ You have theater fans. You have people who aren’t theater fans. So you’re hearing from a much wider demographic than you might with your conventional theater comedy musical.”
Peterson, of ArtsBoston, believes that one reason tickets are so pricey in Boston is because theater lovers can’t just head to New York to catch the show because of the Broadway ticket shortage. She said she hasn’t seen this kind of demand in Boston since 2004, when the Opera House marked its dramatic renovation with a six-month run of Disney’s “The Lion King.”
“We’re just waiting for Broadway in Boston to bring [‘Mormon’] back,” said Peterson. “That’s what you expect if something sells out that quickly.”
Stacie Simon isn’t waiting for a return visit. She heard about “The Book of Mormon” from her mother, who saw it in New York.
“My mother did not like it,” said Simon, who lives in Lexington. “She thought it was vulgar. I like the risqué vulgarity.”
A musical comedy, the show isn’t for everyone. Religion, race, poverty, and sex are all fodder for humor as Elder Cunningham and Elder Price go off to Uganda to try and convert citizens to Mormonism.
Simon isn’t surprised by the demand. In November 2011, she was in New York and tried to get a ticket to see “Mormon” on Broadway. That day, she ended up buying a ticket for Thanksgiving 2012 instead because of the backlog, and she loved the show.
Locked out of the initial Boston offering, Simon saw somebody selling a pair of seats on her synagogue’s listserve for what seemed like a relative bargain of $250. She snatched them up and now she’s looking for another pair, so her boyfriend can take their sons. That’s why she put her own ad up on Craigslist.
So far, she’s been offered tickets that she thinks are too expensive for the balcony. But as opening night approaches, Simon said, she may change her mind.
“If I get desperate, I’ll get them,” she said. “It’s fabulous and the hype is the fact it’s such a fun show and the word has gotten out.”