When the Broadway blockbuster The Book of Mormon comes to Tampa for the first time in November, it likely will be the hottest ticket of the year.
Tickets go on sale to the public Aug. 25, but some fans aren't taking any chances. Straz Center memberships have doubled and Broadway series subscriptions have soared, both allowing early access to tickets. Judith Lisi, president of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, mainly attributes the bump to the popularity of the 2011 Tony winner for best musical.
"We love the Mormons," Lisi laughed. "It's such a big season that I'm not really surprised, but at the same time it's much more than we expected."
A good two years after Mormon opened on Broadway, the merciless mocking of religion by the creators of South Park is still playing to 102 percent capacity there this week. It's a scathing satire about blindly following religious dogma and is filled with vulgar lyrics and an irreverent plot. And audiences can't get enough of it.
It has become the new blockbuster for theaters around the country, joining the group of sure-fire ticket sellers that includes The Lion King, Wicked and Jersey Boys (which will be at the Straz April 8-13).
Should fans be worried about getting a ticket?
Lisi said that even with all the presales, there will be plenty of tickets for the two-week run, though you might have to see the show on a weeknight to get the seat you want. With 16 shows, that's a total of 40,768 tickets.
She suggests showing up at the box office in person Aug. 25 (it's open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) or jumping on the phone or online as soon as ticket sales open. It's likely you would be in competition with ticket buying operations as well.
Individual tickets will be $69 to $153.50, but prices could change depending on demand, Straz spokesman Paul Bilyeu said. Members can buy four tickets now and four more starting Aug. 25. The general public is limited to eight tickets. Some tickets already have shown up on ticket buying site StubHub.com for as high as $250.
The Broadway series at the Straz Center has some legitimate buzz this season. The lineup is topped by Mormon, which opens the season, but also includes last year's Tony Award winner for best new musical, Once, and The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, which won the Tony for best revival of a musical. Another high-profile show is the revival of Evita, a perennial audience favorite by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.
The Straz is quick to point out that you can buy tickets now if you get a membership, which starts at $100, or buy a subscription to the Broadway series of eight shows, which will set you back $214 to $659, depending on where you sit.
And that's just what the audience seems to be doing.
The number of memberships sold this year jumped to 715, up from the 353 members the center had signed up this time last year, Bilyeu said. And subscriptions are already topping 8,200, about 200 more at presale than were sold in all of last year.
If Mormon's track record is any indication, sales should be brisk. The show's first national tour in 2012 set a record at the Pantages Theatre for the biggest single-week box-office take in Los Angeles theater history, taking in nearly $2.5 million in the final week.
"If Broadway has a good year we have a good year," Lisi said, and hinted that next year's lineup is looking equally strong. (Could we be seeing some Kinky Boots in our community closet?)
Lisi will say only that "next year is going to be spectacular too."