Update 2016: I tried my luck in London’s Book of Mormon lottery in 2014 and added some information to this post at the bottom. Go directly to the London Book of Mormon lottery information! When I returned to London in 2016, my friend won the lottery, which I discuss in more detail in post from that trip.
When I went to New York in April 2013, finally getting to see Book of Mormon on Broadway was a highlight. My friend and I bought our tickets in December and spent five months celebrating our good fortune for getting pretty good seats and learning the words to all of the songs. On the glorious Sunday night when we finally saw the show, it was everything I hoped it would be, and I spent a lot of time in the days after my trip telling everyone to see it through any means necessary.
An unexpected trip back to New York in May 2013 (after I got tickets to Saturday Night Live through their lottery), meant another weekend in New York with lots of time to fill up with activities. Since my friend and I were travelling last-minute, we were trying to keep things as frugal as possible. It took zero minutes of conversation for us to decide to let fate intervene and try to get tickets to Book of Mormon in their lottery.
The week before I returned to New York, I did everything I could to put myself in a winning position.* This mostly involved being helpful to others, singing all of the songs as often as possible and being incredibly unlucky in my home country. With my Book of Mormon karma out in the universe, I headed to New York to take my chances.
Book of Mormon Ticket Lottery Basics
Here’s what you need to enter the Book of Mormon ticket lottery:
- A device that tells time
- Photo ID proving your identity
Winning the ticket lottery requires little more effort than showing up at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre (230 W 49th St between Broadway and Ninth Ave) and knowing how to write your name.
2.5 hours before the performance, the lottery opens for 30 minutes. Any time during that 30 minutes, you can enter your name ONCE. I mention this because they’re sticklers about it. After the draw, they go through all of the ballots, and if one of the winners has entered more than once, their tickets are cancelled and sold to someone in the cancellation line.
2 hours before the performance, the draw is made for tickets in the front row and box seats. The prize is actually the ability to buy tickets – each winner can buy up to two tickets for $32 (cash or credit card) with proof of identity.
The Book of Mormon ticket site tells you what you need to do to enter the ticket lottery and it is exactly as advertised. Once you’ve put your name in the barrel, hang out and get to know the other hopeful fans in attendance. We met a lovely couple from Arkansas who had been unsuccessful in getting tickets in the past, so we were realistic about our chances. After another 20 minutes of swapping travel stories with our new Arkansas friends, it was time to surrender to fate.
The odds of winning aren’t great, but they aren’t terrible either. After conducting research on various Broadway fan forums and social media channels, the lottery crowd averages between 200 and 400 people. I also found a site, BroadwaySpotted, that provides a weekly report about rush and ticket lottery statistics for current shows on Broadway. Based on all of these sources, here are the factors that will most significantly affect your chances:
- Season: There are seasonal fluctuations. NYC is a year-round destination, but fewer turn up in the winter. As spring and summer approach, more people turn out for standing on line.
- Weather: Day-to-day, better weather equals worse odds. If it’s sunny, more people will enter. Pray for rain, I guess?
- Day of the week: Weekdays are better than weekends. Given the crush of weekend visitors, more people vie for the tickets, and there seem to be fewer lottery tickets available overall.
I’ve read some reports that say 98% of entrants leave empty handed, but the BroadwaySpotted reports suggest it’s closer to 85-90%, or, you have a 10-15% chance of winning. Your mileage will vary.
Update February 2015: I visited New York in the dead of winter, and tried my luck again at the Book of Mormon lottery. There are definitely fewer people there, and the day I attended, more than 40 tickets were available.
The ticket lottery draw is one of the more exciting things I’ve witnessed in recent years. The draw is managed by Book of Mormon’s Lottery Dude (@LotteryDude on Twitter), and he brings a lot of fun to an event most people will leave in disappointment. The draw starts promptly, first with the rules and a reminder about the identification requirement. And then it begins.
“From New Jersey…” Lottery Dude creates maximum drama and excitement by reading out the winner’s home country/state/city before getting to the name. In this case, everyone present from New Jersey whooped for joy. Followed by “Aw…” when someone else was the lucky New Jerseyite. Or Californian. Or Australian. The number of available tickets was dwindling.
Finally, a break. “From our neighbours to the north, Canada…” My friend and I whoo-hoo, along with another lone Canadian on the other side of the crowd. “From Nova Scotia…” Ahhh! “Krista Spurr!” Hey, THAT’S ME!
I whoo-hooed, chugged a bottle of maple syrup, scored a hat trick, fist-pumped the sky, and ran to the front of the crowd like my name just got called on The Price is Right.**
My Nova Scotia driver’s license passed the test and within a few minutes, I was holding $32 box seats for the 8:00 pm show that Friday night.
Is entering the lottery worth winning the prize? You bet it is. First, all lottery winners get this button. It is now a treasured possession and I’ve already left instructions that I want it buried with me.
Are the seats worth $32? You bet they are. My tickets were in the first box on the left-hand side of the stage. To clarify, that means were we basically sitting on the stage.
While the view was obscured at times, the seats afforded us a very unique perspective on the show. From our perch we could see the performers, the orchestra pit, the musical director/conductor/pianist/virtuoso, and the audience. We saw the actors fly around the stage, dance like crazy, and leave everything on the floor with each song. We could see the direction from the musical director/conductor/pianist on monitors opposite the stage, we could see set pieces fly in an out, seemingly by magic. I continue to be impressed by the musical director/conductor/pianist, during the big number at the end of the first act, he conducts, plays the piano, and hands props to the actors on the stage – at the same time. I’ll never again be impressed by my ability to type an email and walk at the same time.
During “Hasa Diga Eebowai,” one of the early numbers, two really terrific things happened. First, we got flipped off by Nikki M. James, one of the featured actresses, while she sang. Second, we looked into the audience at just the right time, to catch a woman and her parents watching with their jaws literally on the floor. If you’ve seen the musical, you know why.
Simply put, it was an exhilarating experience and only furthered my love for the musical that I’ve now seen twice in three weeks. I wouldn’t hesitate to see it again and I am 100% certain that I’ll enter the ticket lottery again the next time I’m New York.
The Book of Mormon ticket lottery in London
When I visited London in July 2014, seeing a West End show was a priority. So my friend and I decided to take a shot at winning £20 Book of Mormon tickets at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London.
The London ticket lottery is almost exactly the same as the New York one. Show up 2 1/2 hours before show time, bring photo ID, fill out a ballot, and hope your name is called. The twist with the London lottery is there is also a daily Twitter ticket lottery. Next time!
I visited on July 1, Canada Day, and hoped that my Canadian out-of-country luck would shine upon me, but it did not. Another Canadian in the crowd scored some tickets, so close!
*Results not guaranteed! At all!
**Only three of five of these things happened, leave your guesses in the comments!