“The narrative of the American musical critiques the very capitalism that it relies on to make a profit to survive. Therefore, this is a hypocritical industry that smugly challenges the power that comes with success, while enjoying the financial rewards and fame associated with Broadway”. Discuss this statement in view of one of the musicals studied in this course.
When the Sydney season of The Book of Mormon’ went on sale back in September 2017, the show set a record for the highest grossing on-sale of any musical theatre production in Sydney’s history. By the end of the first day of ‘The Book of Mormon’ had sold more than 45,000 tickets with a value of over $5,000,000 (source: my housemate who works for Ticketmaster!). The week we saw the Broadway production, it had grossed over $1.2 million dollars and played at 101.3% capacity! Not bad for a show that’s been running for almost 7 years.
The lead character Elder Price (!) dreams of going to Orlando, the home of Disney. The theatrical division of Disney has two of the biggest hits on Broadway- `The Lion King’ (hilariously lampooned in BOM) and `Aladdin’. The audience laughs at the show and at the characters beliefs while clutching onto their`Book of Mormon’ drink cups that they bought from the bar. You can also buy the `Fuck Frogs’ as told by Elder Cunningham in the foyer as you exit the theatre. Merchandise for all major musicals is produced such t-shirts and caps as are books, cast recordings and so on. Most musicals cost between $10 million to $16 million to produce and according to the Broadway League, only one in five Broadway shows breaks even. Those that do take an average of two years to show a profit. Twenty-five years ago, it took an average of six months for a hit show to recoup its cost. So while the industry may be hypocritical when it comes to capitalism, it can’t afford to.
Later as I left the theatre, I walked past the Starbucks at the end of the street and had a little giggle to myself and started to hum `Spooky Mormon Hell Dream’. I wonder if the people inside clutching their soy almond lattes know, according to the show, they are going to hell. Do they even care? Probably not.
I just want to say that I love this show. At its core, it really is a big, old-fashioned musical, one with the same basic structure that served Rodgers and Hammerstein so well! As The Washington Post’s Peter Marks said in his review: “Don’t believe what they say. Money can buy happiness. It’s yours for the price of a ticket to The Book of Mormon.”