The 'Mormon' show must go on at DPAC and some ticket-holders aren’t happy

dmenconi@newsobserver.comFebruary 13, 2014 

  • ‘The Book of Mormon’

    “The Book of Mormon” – the satirical, Tony Award-winning musical from the creators of “South Park,” runs through Feb. 23 at the Durham Performing Arts Center in Durham. All performances are sold out.

    Because of road conditions, The News & Observer’s theater critic was unable to attend Wednesday night’s performance to review the production.

    For more information, visit dpacnc.com.

  • ‘Les Miserables’

    “Les Miserables” – the epic, Tony-winning musical adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel – runs through Feb. 23 at Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium. Tickets are still available.

    For a review of the show, visit newsobserver.com/art-culture.

    For more information, visit nctheatre.com.

EDITORS' NOTE: This article is now being updated at a new link, which also details DPAC's box-office response.

The winter storm shut down almost every public gathering in the Triangle on Wednesday night, including the Duke-North Carolina basketball game in Chapel Hill. But one event that did go on was “The Book of Mormon,” a Broadway musical at Durham Performing Arts Center – a move that angered many ticket-holders.

One of them was Sherry Bailey of Cary. As snow accumulated Wednesday afternoon, she called DPAC’s box office and was told that that night’s show would happen no matter what.

“I mentioned the governor declaring a state of emergency, and the box-office guy totally brushed me off,” Bailey said. “ ‘Oh, that’s just so they can get federal aid quicker. It doesn’t mean anything,’ he said. Then he told me, ‘Good luck getting here.’ 

Bailey didn’t make it to DPAC, and neither did many people holding tickets for the sold-out show. A photo taken by Jeff Shaw that was circulated on social media showed that many seats in the 2,700-seat hall were empty.

Thursday night’s also went on, even though snow and sleet were falling and local roads remained icy. In response to phone calls seeking comment, DPAC management released only a terse statement by email:

“We are following our normal procedures and handling internally through our customer service department. People with concerns can contact DPAC at customerservice@dpacnc.com and we will follow up with them individually from there.”

The storm canceled most other entertainment events in the Triangle, including the musical “Les Miserables” at Memorial Auditorium in Raleigh’s Duke Energy Center. North Carolina Theatre canceled both Wednesday’s and Thursday’s “Les Mis” shows, adding a Monday performance to accommodate affected ticket-holders (see nctheatre.com for details).

As for “Book of Mormon,” statements on DPAC’s website and Twitter feed said that it had no choice in the matter because, “Touring Broadway shows do not cancel shows regardless of any local weather or road conditions.”

But that was not the case in another city recently with this same production.

After a blizzard, two “Book of Mormon” shows scheduled for Jan. 28 and Jan. 29 at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre were canceled. Another performance was added for ticket-holders affected by the canceled shows.

Wednesday and Thursday, social media lit up with angry complaints pointing out that contradiction – and the folly of not canceling a theatrical event during weather that had North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory urging people, “Don’t put on your stupid hat.”

Susan Hessen of Cary posted a blistering message on DPAC’s Facebook page. There was plenty of heat on DPAC’s Twitter feed as well.

“Emergency vehicles and hospital workers have to get out in it, but a theatrical production is not an emergency event,” said Hessen. “Not canceling it was a reckless decision. I saw a photo of how few people were there. So not only did they endanger their own employees and patrons, it was disrespectful to make the cast play to an empty house. It looked pathetic, a poor representation of the community.”

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