'Book of Mormon' Producers Reward Fanbase with Fans-Only Performance

July 1st show was first of what cast hopes will be a tradition

July 3, 2011 2:58 PM ET
'Book of Mormon' Producers Reward Fanbase with Fans-Only Performance

The Book of Mormon was already Broadway's hottest ticket when it won nine Tony awards at last month's ceremony, a success propelled both by critical acclaim ("The new gold standard for rowdy fun on Broadway," says Peter Travers) and fan devotion for the first stage musical from South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The show's daily lottery for 20 tickets regularly generates hundreds of entries, which is why producers decided to reward its fans' dedication with a performance just for them. The event, which took place last Friday, July 1st, proved to be just the thing to push the megasuccessful show into new hit-making territory.

The first of the 800 fan ticket winners lined up at midnight for the general admission show, and the excitement in the theater was palpable from the minute they were let in. Co-creator Bobby Lopez kicked things off by joking the audience would get to see his other Tony-winning musical, Avenue Q, first, before getting serious, saying, "This is our way of saying 'thank you' to all of you guys who are on Facebook and Foursquare and the lottery and all that stuff. We have not been blind to it, and we thought this was a good way of saying thanks."

Outside of Lopez's remarks, the show went on as normal, though it became clear that this group was more familiar with the blend of religious humor, musical theater reverence and shock and awe Book of Mormon is made of than your average theater crowd. The high notes were really high — applause reached new levels of loudness each time one of the show's four Tony-nominated actors took the stage — and the lows? There were none. After the show, star Andrew Rannells (Elder Price) told Rolling Stone the applause after his second-act solo, "I Believe" (which he performed on the Tonys last month) was a "wonderful moment" to remember from this performance, while his co-star, Josh Gad (Elder Cunningham), joked the roar of applause at the end of the show reached a new decibel. "I could literally feel it," he says.

"It's fantastic the show has been so successful, but we price out our target audience," Rannells says. "It was exciting to perform for people who want to be here." Adds Gad: "Everybody feels like they got to witness something special today, which is the great thing about theater. These are the people we love having here the most." It appears the sentiment was shared by the entire cast: Rannells said there was a hope this fan-only performance would lead to more shows of its kind. They're probably not the only ones: As Gad points out, "The producers have set new standards for publicity. I keep joking at the rate they're going, they're going to sell out to 2015."

• Peter Travers: 'The Book of Mormon': The Genii of 'South Park' Hit Broadway, and History is Made
'The Book of Mormon' Triumphs at the Tony Awards
Photos: The 65th Annual Tony Awards
On the Charts: Amazon Gives 'Book of Mormon' Soundtrack a Huge Boost

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