They tap-dance in missionary outfits. They sing. They change into really strange costumes and perform a full-on show-stopping routine during a number called the “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” song.
I’m talking about the extraordinarily talented cast of The Book of Mormon, the Tony Award-winning Best Musical playing an extended engagement at Philadelphia’s Forrest Theatre through September 14th. Two of the ensemble members, JR Bruno and “swing” Josh Daniel, are part of the oh-so-wrong musical by the creators of South Park that takes stabs at just about every other musical out there, including The King and I, The Lion King, and Wicked. It’s also pretty damn funny; ironically enough, in the middle of my interview with the cast, a theater manager interrupted us, saying there was an audience complaint: people were laughing too much.
Bruno has been on the tour since it started two years ago and performed on Broadway in West Side Story; Daniel, a fresh graduate of the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, has been on tour for a year. I had the chance to sit down with both cast members after their Thursday evening performance, and we chatted about Philly (this is the first-time visit for both of them), the Forrest Theatre, and what it is like to tour across North America.
G Philly: What do you think of Philadelphia so far?
Josh Daniel: It's great! It's like a not-as-intense New York. The food is wonderful, and it's so artsy. There are so many venues for performances.
GP: And what about this space, the Forrest Theatre?
JR Bruno: It reminds me of a real Broadway house. You can literally just reach out and touch the audience.
GP: What's the most challenging thing about being on tour?
JD: Being away is hard, and, of course, leaving behind friends and family. You're in a new place every few weeks.
JB: It's about establishing routine. You're in a new bed, a new city. That's hard.
GP: But there's obviously great things about being on tour, too, right?
JD: Oh, yeah. You get to see so many places, and there are so many great people that you meet.
GP: So previous to Mormon, what were some of your performance highlights?
JB: I was in West Side Story on Broadway and toured Denmark. I played Hunter in [title of show], which was an experience. People would come up to me all the time about that. I had to change my Facebook privacy settings over it.
GP: Well, [title of show] has some really intense groupies, doesn't it?
JB: Oh, yeah: the tossers! (Editorial note: from previous personal experience, these [title of show] fans (i.e.--tossers) are a little crazy.)
GP: And what about you, Josh?
JD: I'm fresh out of CCM (College Conservatory of Music). It's my first national tour experience.
GP: After your Philly engagement, where is the tour off to?
JB: We're off to Toronto for 11 weeks.
GP: So, besides Mormon, any other big things in the works for either of you?
JB: For me, I like to play it by ear.
JD: Honestly, I'm so lucky to be in this show. That's my focus for now!
You can catch The Book of Mormon at the Forrest Theatre through September 14. For more information and for tickets, visit the Kimmel Center webpage. You can also follow the exploits of the cast by searching hashtags #LoveMormon and #BwyPhl.