Provocative ‘Book of Mormon’ makes musical a nice fit for Vegas

When the second Broadway season at The Smith Center was announced, I was disappointed that “The Book of Mormon” wasn’t coming to Las Vegas.

In 2011, the controversial musical about missionaries in Uganda won nine Tony awards, including best musical, best score, best book, best lighting, best direction, best orchestrations, best actress in a featured role, best scenic design and best music.

But a Las Vegas run for 2012-2013 didn’t work out.

Now The Smith Center’s 2013-2014 season is being planned. I still hope “The Book of Mormon” might come then, even while recognizing the satire about two Mormon missionaries in Uganda is offensive to some.

Myron Martin, president of The Smith Center, said he’s being lobbied both for and against bringing it here. At this point, he’s working on bringing the controversial musical to Las Vegas. “For every person who says don’t bring it here, I get 10 or 20 who say: ‘When are you going to bring it here?’ ”

He said the show’s creative team “is brilliant. They’ve written a piece that’s extraordinary, and I’d be crazy not to explore bringing it here. … If we were so fortunate to get it, I don’t doubt it would sell out immediately and that the people who come and see it will be entertained. They’ll laugh, they’ll love the music. They’ll love the story. It’s fun, clever and cute.”

The Wall Street Journal recently reported the show making its first road tour of 16 cities starting in August is skipping the South.

The article questioned whether America’s heartland will embrace “The Book of Mormon,” with its irreverent approach to organized religion and its profane language.

“I think The Smith Center owes it to our patrons and ticket-buying public to make a run at trying to get it here,” Martin said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to get it. It doesn’t mean a hotel isn’t trying to get it. There are no guarantees we’re going to get it, this coming season or any season.”

But he’s trying.

Here’s the shocker. Negotiations are under way to take the show to Salt Lake City in 2013, according to John Ballard, president of MagicSpace Entertainment, which books shows in nine mostly smaller cities in the United States and Canada.

While 62 percent of Utah’s population is Mormon, Ballard, based in Salt Lake City, said he never considered not trying to bring the controversial musical to Utah.

“It’s a big hit, and the people of Salt Lake City and Utah should be able to see it,” Ballard said. “It’s not my job to censor.”

Over the years, when there are shows with controversial content, such as “Rent,” “Avenue Q” or “Spring Awakening,” Ballard makes sure that customers know it is controversial. He doesn’t always try to nab it the first year of touring, waiting until later so audiences have time to learn about the show. That’s why he didn’t try for “The Book of Mormon” this first touring year.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints issued a statement about the musical saying: “The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.”

Ballard thought it was a smart decision by the church not to bash the musical. “If they’d been bashing Catholics, the pope would be very upset, and you’d hear about it.”

We won’t know whether “The Book of Mormon” will be part of The Smith Center’s third season for another 11 months or so. Martin will doubtlessly continue to be lobbied for and against presenting it.

Seven percent of Nevada’s population should not be able to decide what the other 93 percent can see.

Simple solution: If you don’t think you’ll like it, don’t go.

Jane Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at or call her at 702-383-0275. She also blogs at

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