Jeff Pearlman

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Scott Barnhardt

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You're an actor trying to make it on Broadway. Then you're hired to star in The Book of Mormon. Two words: Life. Changer. POSTED July 21, 2011

 

A couple of weeks ago, as a belated Father’s Day gift, the wife took me to see The Book of Mormon on Broadway.

Through the years, the wife has treated me to some amazing presents: Mouth-watering meals, killer shows, the greatest wood swing known to humanity. She is the queen of righteous gifting—better than anyone I’ve ever seen.

This, however, blew everything away.

The Book of Mormon was nominated for 14 Tony Awards, took home nine of them (including Best Musical)—and is still underrated. The Book of Mormon would be underrated were it to last for 25 years. It’d be underrated were it named Funniest Musical of all Time. It’d be underrated … well, it’d always be underrated. Because there’s no real way to describe how insanely funny and beautiful and magical of a production it is. I’ve never witnessed a show that had me simultaneously crying and laughing. Never. The wife felt the exact same way—and our senses of humor rarely meet.

It was that good.

Though Scott Barnhardt is officially credited as “Ensemble” on The Book of Mormon website, he stands out as one of the straight-laced, too-pious-to-be-true missionaries sent to Uganda to save the natives. He’s a huge part of the production, and his singing/dancing background made him a seemingly perfect fit.

Here, Scott talks all things Mormon, as well as his theatre background, his love of Tommy John and why a mythical man named Scooter deserves to stand alongside Richie and the Fonz in Happy Days lore …

Hello, my name is Elder Pearlman. And I welcome Scott Barnhardt to The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: I hate asking obvious questions on this site, but I’m about to ask an obvious question: How did this happen? I mean, please tell the story of how you landed a role in one of the most lauded productions in Broadway history. How’d you find out about it? The audition? Getting the gig? I have no idea how these things work.

SCOTT BARNHARDT: So here’s the story of how I got into The Book of Mormon. There had been several workshops and readings of the show over the past 3 years, and I wasn’t a part of them. I remember hearing about them around town, and thinking to myself “Oh, that would be the perfect gig for me.” But alas, the phone never rang. Then the producers brought on a new director/choreographer, Casey Nicholaw, for one last pre-Broadway workshop set for August 2010.

I had a full-plate of jobs that summer. I was going up to do a production of Plaid Tidings on Cape Cod, and choreographing for a summer stock in upstate New York. I had also started applying for some director apprenticeships. I was really trying to push my path towards more directing and choreographing. Mormon was far away from my radar.

Just as I was starting rehearsals in New York City for Plaid, I got a phone call from my agents. “Are you free for an audition on Monday for the Mormon workshop?” I wasn’t free, as I had a full day of rehearsal, but I worked it out. I ran over to the audition on my lunch break. Because everything with the show was so secretive, we weren’t allowed to have audition material sent to us. We could only read the sides at the audition site or at the casting office. So in that hour break, I got there, read the sides a few times over, went in the room and auditioned.

Happily, I had worked with Casey many years before when he choreographed Bye Bye Birdie at City Center ENCORES! So it was like a reunion of sorts. I was given a callback for the next day. But they needed to see more material from the show. So I was sent away with the song Man Up. I went back to finish my rehearsal for Plaid, and then went home and studied.

The next day, I still had another full day of rehearsals. It was a game of New York City human ping-pong or maybe more like Mormon Frogger. I started at rehearsal for Plaid, then popped down to the audition studio on my lunchbreak to read the new sides (even though I could take the song home, I still could only read the scenes at the studio). Then I hightailed it back to finish rehearsals, and then one final pop back to the audition studio at the end of day with the last appointment at 5:30, and sang and read for Matt, Trey, and Casey.

It was a surreal audition, but I made them laugh. I remember feeling very proud about that … even if I didn’t book the job, I could walk out of there knowing that I made Matt Stone and Trey Parker laugh. Not a bad day.

I got the call from my agents the next morning. I got the job.

It wasn’t until much later that I found out how I had even gotten the audition in the first place. Casey had just gotten his job as director of the show, and was driving down 8th Avenue in a taxi. I was standing outside of a Starbucks talking with a friend. Casey said to himself, “I have to remember to bring Scott in for this show.” And that’s how I got the audition.

Right place, right time.

We did the workshop in August, which was an amazing experience. So inspiring and cool to be watching the process of creating a show of this magnitude from the inside. Once the workshop closed, within a few days the vast majority of the cast were asked to join the Broadway Company. Dreamy.

J.P.: When did you first realize The Book of Mormon would be big? Like, not just a play that succeeded and worked—but big, big, big? Like, all-time big?

S.B.: There were different moments for me of understanding how epic this show was going to be. Day 1 of the workshop, where we did a table read-thru, was very telling. I was one of the few new people to that cast, and as we were reading this script I couldn’t help but react. The script was amazing, shocking, brilliant, and absurdly funny. And I quickly realized that all the newbies were being meticulously watched by all the returning cast members. Every time a great joke came down the pike, I could see the row of Mormon boys all turning their heads to see my reaction. They were thrilled to have new people responding to this material. That showed to me that there was real buzz and joy just within this company of actors, many of whom had done various incarnations of the show for 3+ years. I find that kind of joy and humor to be rare, especially on Day 1 of a rehearsal process. They were eager to share. And just hearing the words of the script and the lyrics and the music, I knew this team was onto something special.

The explosive reactions at the workshop presentations was another sign. We were in a large black-box studio at Julliard for 6 weeks, developing the show. It was a fully staged workshop, and I thought it was really beautifully done. But in a workshop setting there are no elaborate sets, lights or costumes. And yet, the workshop had uproarious standing ovations after every one of the presentations we did. I’ve seen and done a lot of workshops in my day, I had never seen a reaction quite like that. Another clue.

Then we started rehearsals in the studio for the Broadway run in January, and teched in early-February at the theater. As I saw all the physical elements coming together, I couldn’t help but get excited. Then we added the most crucial element to the show… The audience. As much as we knew how much we loved the show, there was no guarantee that the audience was going to feel the same way. We had only performed the show for no more than 100 people at a time. Now we were facing 1,060 people, eight times a week. It was daunting to say the least.

Invited dress, we were greeted with an insane audience reaction. But we all humbly chalked it up to the audience being filled with friends and family. Then our first preview. .. same reaction. We chalked that up to it being the really eager and excited fans of South Park and Avenue Q filling the audience, who wanted to be there for the very first public performance. Then the next night, and the next night … same reactions. It was somewhere in there that it all started to become apparent that we were a part of a juggernaut.

Then Opening Night (and the reviews), then box office records, then huge lines for the lottery, then the cast album hitting the Billboard charts and then all the awards!! It has been a crazy ride. Unlike anything I’ve ever seen or experienced before.

I still don’t think it has hit me as to how big the show has gotten. I mean, I understand the success logically, but because our basic job hasn’t changed and everyone backstage is so awesome, it still somehow feels very familiar and comfortable. I really like that combination of feelings.

J.P.: So while watching the show, I asked my wife this question: Do you think the cast members still find the jokes funny? She said No, I said Maybe. I mean, you’re now entering your fifth month in The Book of Mormon. You obviously know every word by heart. You hear it over and over and over and over again. So do you still find it funny? And how, after performing the same thing time and time again, do you stay inspired and excited? Do you ever think, “Man, I’m so bored of this …”

S.B.: This show is still funny. The show will always be funny. Even though I know all the jokes and the gags, my ear perks up to something new every few shows and I find myself giggling.

There is certainly a trick to finding your groove in a long running show. Partly because you are doing the same thing day-in and day-out.

The thing that I find breaks that monotony of a job is the cast you are surrounded by. Thankfully this cast is full of hysterical, insane and gloriously ridiculous people. There hasn’t been a day at the theater where I haven’t had at least had four solid belly laughs. Think about that. Four sensible belly laughs. I think that is remarkable. I’d wager to bet that my dressing room (which we lovingly call “Das Boot” as it is a long submarine-like room that fits five very funny Mormon boys) laughs more than any other dressing room on Broadway. My job rocks. That keeps me inspired.

The other trick to the monotony of a long run, is what I do outside the theater. I am always busy. I still have a handful of side jobs (including reading Textbooks on Tape and the occasional teaching gig). I love to travel. I am constantly seeing theater; seeing friends; seeing friends in theater. If you have good stuff going on outside of the theater, I think you’re bound to bring good stuff into the theater. And it helps me appreciate the amazing job I have with this show.

And the second I start saying, “Man, I’m so bored of this…”, well, that is the day to start looking for the next gig. It doesn’t get much better than this.

J.P.: You attended the Orange County High School of the Arts, then Wagner College. What is your life path, acting-wise? In other words, how did you get here? When did you know you wanted to act? And was there a breakthrough moment?

S.B.: The big story in my family, was me being 4-years old and seeing some Coca-Cola commercial on television that had tap dancing on it. I saw it and freaked. I wanted tap dance lessons immediately. That was the first clear moment that I knew I wanted to perform.

My parents held me off for about two years, but I kept begging. I was relentless in my pursuit. The big breakthrough moment was when I was about 6, I found out my brother’s teammate on his water polo team had a mother who owned a dance studio. Shout out to Val Weaver Dance Studio in Orange, California! I went straight up to her at a water polo match, introduced myself and asked how I could get started. Within a few weeks I was finally in tap lessons. That was the gateway drug for me and it only snowballed into a “theater addiction” of epic proportions that continues to this day.

Growing up in Orange County, California, I was exposed to a lot of theater. Aspects of the entertainment industry were everywhere. By the age of 10, I had started working at a lot of different professional regional theaters in the area and also had an agent in LA. The long and short of it, I was a show-biz kid. Anything I could do that was performance based, I was trying to be a part of it. And my parents were fully supportive of me in that endeavor, which I am eternally grateful for.

As I grew older, I knew I wanted to keep studying theater, so I begged to my parents once more. This time to go to the Orange County High School of the Arts (OCHSA). I knew I wanted to be around other like-minded kids, and the idea of regular high school terrified me. My parents agreed, and for my first two years of High School, I commuted 30-45 minutes each way to get to school, would be at school from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and often would rehearse for all of our shows until 9 or 10! (We ended up moving closer to school my junior year.) It was a genius place for a “Theater Junkie” like myself to go to.

As for college, I just knew I wanted to come out east. I had my eyes set on two of the big conservatories for theater, NYU and Carnegie Mellon. I was accepted to neither, and deeply heartbroken about it.

My back-up school was Wagner College on Staten Island. I had been initially disappointed about this situation, but Wagner ended up being the perfect training ground for me. I had gone through the rigors of conservatory training at OCHSA, so Wagner became a safe place for me to grow up, become a man and really learn New York City.

Wagner is a small liberal arts campus, so I was also able to indulge the academic nerd in me. I took so many courses that were not theater based … religion courses, sociology, business courses, ceramics! My favorite class to date is still a “Death and Beyond” religion course studying the rituals and afterlife beliefs of cultures and religions around the world (Shout out to Dr. Walter Kaelber!). And I think all of the variety academically, really informed my theater studies. It really opened my eyes to a world beyond the stage, and I was exposed to a group of people I probably would never have otherwise met.

And while Wagner fully supported my theater “habit” (I had just as heavy a performance load as I did at OCHSA), it did help me find balance for the rest of my life. And it has continued to train me long after I graduated there. I went back in 2009, to step in for a dear teacher who had suddenly passed away, to direct a production of The Who’s Tommy, and that experience has led me to actively pursue more directing work. I don’t know if that sort of opportunity would have been presented to me had I gone to NYU or Carnegie, but I am so grateful that Wagner College has given me as much as it has.

Also, going to Wagner made the transition to moving to New York City so much easier. I had a built-in network of friends in the city, tons of connections in the industry, and had 4 years of auditioning in the city that made everything much more comfortable.

And from there, I just kept plugging along. Nothing happened overnight for me. I wasn’t given a big contract right away. It was a slow and gradual process. I truly feel like I had to earn my spot in the industry, regional gig by regional gig, and figure out where I fit… mostly because no one else was going to figure it out for me.

But one acting job seemed to lead to the next, with lots of survival day jobs in between. And I’d like to think that perseverance and (on many days) struggle is what is keeping me grounded in light of all that is going on with Mormon. It is the struggle that has taught me how to be self reliant, resourceful and clever. I think it’s made me a much more interesting human.

And I think even the most experienced of actors (at least the actors open to it), continue to have breakthrough moments throughout their careers. I think it is the only way to survive and to stay inspired. I like to think of the breakthroughs as the road markers on an artistic “road trip,” and sometimes they take us on crazy detours, but it’s leads us to wherever we are supposed to be going.

 

J.P.: You’re credited as “MIT Student” in A Beautiful Mind. I thought, of all the MIT students in A Beautiful Mind, you were by far the most convincing. What do you recall of that experience?

S.B.: Thank You? Ha! Of course you call me out on my film credit as an extra! I just write “MIT Student” to make it sound fancier. Busted!

What I recall from this experience was that I had just graduated from college and I was poor! I had a SAG card from doing commercials when I was in high school out in California, so I signed up to be an extra just to make some extra money. I remember being dressed up in fancy old vintage clothes, being treated like high-end cattle, and being brought to a classroom in the Bronx to shoot. I also remember it being incredible to be directed by Ron Howard. I mean, extra or not, being in the same room as Ron Howard working on a film is freaking cool.

The truly coolest thing that happened on that set was they were shooting Russell Crowe’s shot of this particular classroom scene, and he needed a few students in the room for him to work off of, and to set his eye levels, etc. And I randomly got picked with three others out of the group of extras. It was a simple shot, but so neat to be able to watch the process unfold.

And then the movie came out, and there was a massive, unmistakably “That’s Scotty!” shot in the scene. To this day, I have gotten more phone calls and texts from that experience, then from any theater gig I have ever done (maybe with Mormon being a slight exception to that). All for a random day of extra work trying to make some extra cash.

My family thought it was really cool too … maybe even cooler than the fancy Broadway callbacks I was getting at the same time.

Not maybe. They most certainly thought it was cooler.

J.P.: I’ve read a bunch of interviews with myriad Mormons about the Book of Mormon, and they mostly offer some variation of this optimistic take: “This will bring more attention to Mormonism, and that can actually help us!” Uh … what? You’re in the cast—is there any chance someone leaves thinking, “Mormonism—sign me up!” And has your perception of the LDS church changed at all?

S.B.: I don’t know if this show is going to bring a giant uptick in Mormon membership per se, but it does give the religion a lot of exposure. And what I love more than anything about the show, is that it gets people talking about faith, how it works in their lives and what it does for them. This show isn’t meant to be Mormon bashing, but rather it uses the Mormon religion to make a bigger statement about the natural evolution of religion in general.

I also agree with Matt, Trey and Bobby’s opinion on this subject … the Mormons that I have had the good fortune of meeting are some of the nicest and sweetest people I know. I’ve never met a Mormon that I didn’t like. I also love so many of their core values. They are kind, resourceful, gracious, and giving people. Family is of the upmost importance to them. These are all traits that can be easily revered.

I have had the pleasure of working twice in Salt Lake City at Pioneer Theater Company (on the University of Utah campus, where I played Carmen Ghia in The Producers and Andy Lee in 42nd Street). That was the biggest exposure I have had to the Mormon church before this show, and as an outsider I was greeted with open arms, and made some great friendships with many LDS members. And despite being in The Book of Mormon, I am still in good standing with them and stay in contact with them regularly.

So I don’t know if the show has changed my perception of the LDS church, but I have certainly learned a whole lot more about it’s history and culture and it has also made me look inwardly toward my own sense of faith and spirituality.

J.P.: I have a friend who’s extremely religious. On her Facebook page she recently wrote, “So The Book of Mormon, billed as the most profane musical in Broadway history, took home nine Tony Awards. Figure in the recent success of the movie Bridesmaids, called both raunchy and disgusting even by those who loved it, and it makes me wonder: At what point did obscenity go beyond commonplace to the point it’s actually praiseworthy?” She also wrote, “profanity and gratuitous language/vulgarity is LAZINESS.” What’s your take on this?

S.B.: This is a really interesting topic. I have found that a lot of people with this sort of opinion about the show have not actually seen the show or heard the recording. I don’t know if that is the case here, but I think it’s fascinating nonetheless.

I have had the privilege of witnessing this show be created for the last year, so my opinion is full of knowledge about the process of how this show came to be. I could call this show many things, but ‘lazy’ is about the furthest adjective I would ever use to describe how this show was written and created.

Every word, lyric and scene was painstakingly written. Like with many aspects of pop culture, sure, we use profanity to our advantage. But in this particular instance, the profanity is highly calculated and used very specifically to allow the audience to go on a particular ride. These words have power to them, which is why we all react to them the way that we do. They are titillating. This show simply capitalizes on that emotional reaction. On that level, I find it to be laser-sharp writing.

Your friend didn’t see Matt, Trey and Bobby working tirelessly to make sure every lyric and line had the right balance within the structure of the show (curse words included … It’s amazing how many of them were actually cut!). She didn’t see Casey Nicholaw and his assistants (Jen Werner-Cannizaro and John MacInnis) dream up amazing dance steps and creative staging. She didn’t see our designers and crew build a beautiful world for us to play on. And she didn’t see this cast come together and tirelessly rehearse this show, and create characters that didn’t exist just a few months ago. And putting it all together, there were thousands of working hours that were spent on this show. Trust me, it was not a lazy endeavor.

And at the end of the day, I like to believe that we didn’t win acclaim because we used the words ‘fuck’ and ‘cunt’ cleverly. The show works because The Book of Mormon is a classically-structured, impeccably-staged Broadway musical comedy.

Everyone is entitled their opinion and this show might not be her cup of tea. I get that. She would not be the only one. There are a lot of people who don’t want to hear those words in any context. But I also bet, that if she were to see the whole show and understand its underlying message, she might have a fucking amazing good time.

J.P.: What are you thinking when you’re on stage? Take us through your brain patterns …

S.B.: Mostly my thought process is based on staying in the scene that we are in. And the show is so well written, that it isn’t too hard to do.

But now and again, there are the fun occasional thoughts that will pop in.

The big one for me lately is that I have a chronic fear that I’m wearing the wrong socks. Seriously. We change clothes so many times in the show, that I often get on stage and start a scene without having double-checked, and I have a mini panic attack. It is particularly bad in the group Baptism scene, when everyone on stage is dressed all in white. I am somehow always convinced that my black socks are on with my white suit, and that I will be found out as some kind of a Mormon fraud. Until I take a conspicuous glance down to see that I do indeed have the right socks on. It is such a random issue, but it still freaks me out.

The same irrational fear sometimes goes along with the Mormon name tag and the Mormon tie.

I also sneezed on stage recently. The thought process: “I’m going to sneeze. What do I do? What do I do? [sneeze] Oh, that’s what I do. [contemplative beat] Wow. I just sneezed on Broadway. That’s a first for me!”

The other thing that permeates my thinking is when someone fancy is in the audience. You can’t help but think about “something” when you hear that Oprah and Gayle are watching the show. We’ve got a few “hawk eyes” in our cast who can spot people within the first or second scene. It’s astounding the amount of fancy people who have seen the show. It also is a big factor in backstage chit-chat. Fun stuff.

J.P.: Best moment on stage/lowest moment on stage:

S.B.: Best Moment on Stage: Opening Night of Book of Mormon. Absolutely. Magical.

I would also include learning how to do the flip up the wall in Make ‘em Laugh in Singin’ in the Rain, when I played Cosmo up at The Goodspeed Opera House. I worked my butt off to get that, and landing that every night was a personal triumph!

Lowest Moment on Stage: I don’t know if this was my lowest moment, but it was one of the funniest.

I did the National tour of Deaf West’s acclaimed production of Big River, which is the story of Huckleberry Finn told with a cast of hearing and deaf actors. It was a truly remarkable experience, one in which I traveled the U.S. (and Tokyo!) and also got to learn American Sign Language, as every hearing actor had to sign and sing their own lines at some point in the show.

I had a small speech in the second act, playing one half of the prissy Robinson twins, warning Mary Jane about her future. It was a speech that I had to sign as well as speak. I had done this speech close to 300 times. I knew this speech.

And then, one day, I did not know this speech. For no apparent reason, just as I opened my mouth to start saying the line, it flew right out of my head. I panicked and then I started ad-libbing, and riffing on some strange variation of the line I was supposed to be saying. Lots of words. I saw the cast around me, and their eyes were like saucers. It’s the type of reaction you would imagine if you were watching someone watch you have a stroke. I just kept talking and talking and trying to find a way to finish the line and get the hell off the stage. It felt like eternity.

But the remarkable part about it all, was I ad-libbed in sign language right along with my spoken line. I was just babbling in sign language, matching what ever crazy thing was coming out of my mouth. So even the deaf actors got to enjoy my misery as I stumbled along in sign and spoken word.

Luckily, I had a quick exit right after, and could leave the rest of the cast onstage with their faces turned upstage to hide their uproarious giggles. I also made the stage manager miss a cue, because he was laughing so hard about it.

A special moment for me.

J.P.: I have a theory—writers, actors, singers. In high school and junior high we were mostly geeks; the kids other students made fun of and mocked and called “drama nerds” and the like. Then we grow up, produce books and CDs and magical plays, and the asswipes from back in the day—now working as stock brokers and gas attendants—brag about knowing us. Do you fit into this category? And do you buy my theory?

S.B.: I was such a theater nerd. Honestly, I am still a total theater nerd. I know more random facts about old Broadway shows than is probably healthy.

But theater is my passion. I love it so much. And that love is what makes me a Theater Nerd. I love it enough that I’m not really concerned about how others view me. If they think it’s dorky—and let’s be honest, many people do—I’m not bothered by it. And I’ve been that was for as long as I can remember.

I always knew I wanted to be one of the adults that do just what you said: produce and write books and CDs and magical plays. Because it is magical! So I was super focused, since the age of 10, to figure out how the hell to make that happen.

I was a little boy who sang show tunes and tap danced for talent shows in elementary school. That was my bag. I was a natural target for bullying. And I guess I was made fun of to some extent, but it didn’t really matter to me. And because I didn’t care too much about it, and I was far more concerned about how I was going to get my next theater “fix,” I was left mostly to my own devices.

I still proudly wear the label “Theater Nerd.” It seems to have served me pretty well throughout life.

And yes, your theory about the asswipes who “knew us back in the day,” does hold some truth to it. Luckily, I went to a High School of the Arts, so most of my peeps understood me, even back then. I was naturally sheltered from a lot of the asswipes. But there are always a few who slip through the cracks.

My favorite comment from someone many years post-high school was, “Dude, Scotty, when did you get funny?!?”

Sigh.

“I was always pretty funny, you just weren’t listening back then… DUDE!”

QUAZ EXPRESS WITH SCOTT BARNHARDT

• You’ve done a load of regional theatre work over the years. You once played Scooter in the Papermill Playhouse production of Happy Days, and you played Garvin in Footloose at the Theatre by the Sea. I say this with all respect, Scott—I’ve watched Happy Days and Footloose 8,000 times, and I’m pretty sure there was no Scooter and no Garvin. Who are these guys?: Ha! This question made me laugh out loud. I totally LOL’ed.

Garvin from the stage version of Footloose is one of Willard’s friends in the number Mama Says. (a.k.a. That guy who belts real high and is a little bit nerdy.) It’s an actual character in the script, I swear.

Scooter is another story. He is a very special guy. No, he wasn’t in the series. No, he never jumped the shark. He is just a strange version of me.

Happy Days: The New Musical, had been kicking around for a few years, and they did a developmental run at Goodspeed Opera House. They transfered that Goodspeed production to the Papermill Playhouse. I was added to the Papermill company to help fill out the ensemble and to cover the roles of Chachi, Potsie and Ralph (Yup, all three of those names are on my resume too!)

This ensemble character needed a name, since no one had ever been in this male ensemble track before. So the director, Gordon Greenberg, looked at me and said, “Hmmmm … you look like a Scooter.” And so Scooter was born, and became very popular among the cast. People stopped calling me Scott and would only call me Scooter. I didn’t have a single line, and was never referred to onstage as Scooter … but Scooter lived in that show!

I would normally just put ENSEMBLE on my resume for a job like that, but Scooter seemed to be something special.

And when the character name Scooter made it into the liner notes of the Cast Album we recorded, I kept it on my resume. Scooter rules.

• Would you rather get a tattoo across your forehead with the Chinese symbol for canned pickles or spend the next year listening to Celine Dion’s greatest hits on an endless loop?: Since I am not a fan of pickles and I have a large enough forehead (a 5-head instead of a 4-head) and don’t need anything helping me point that out, I’m going to have to go with Celine’s endless loop.

• The line, “You have a lovely mudhut” had me laughing for days. What’s your singular favorite line in the show?: The one line that always makes me giggle is a Sound of Music reference in Elder Price’s big power ballad, I Believe.

“A Warlord who shoots people in the face … What’s so scary about that?” Brilliant.

• Five favorite Broadway productions of all time: This is so hard. It’s like Sophie’s Choice for me. And in no particular order …

Musicals: Avenue Q, Sweeney Todd, The Drowsy Chaperone, Ragtime, Into The Woods.

Plays: Next Fall, Little Dog Laughed, Angles in America, The Normal Heart, Journey’s End.

• Five favorite actors/actresses: This is another huge question for me. So I’m going to base it on five theater actors who I have actually seen live on stage: Meryl Streep, Fiona Shaw, Denis O’Hare, Julie White, Brian Darcy James.

• Favorite curse word: Fuck.

Ron Guidry, Tommy John or Larry Gura?: You’re asking a gay musical theater actor this question … so I, in turn, asked my straight friend … he says Tommy John. I’m going with Tommy John. (And this is why I am the “secretary” for The Book Of Mormon Broadway Softball Team … I can keep scores and stats like nobody’s business.)

• If you could ask Tupac Shakur one question, what would it be?: “Is there music in heaven?”

• You’re on a first date. The person you’re with has a dried booger at the end of his nose. What do you do/say?: “Do you know The Golden Rule? Well, you can pick your friends. You can pick your nose. But you can’t pick your friend’s nose. So if we are going to be friends, I’m going to need you to take care of that dried booger at the end of your nose. Thank You.”

• You’re 5-8, 145 pounds. Have you ever—in your life—gotten in a fight? And if so, did you even come close to winning?: You’re not wrong, I am more of a lover than a fighter.

I remember being in a line for school in the fifth grade. A boy stole a button from the girl who was in front of me, and she was very upset about it. I knew what had happened was wrong. So I went up to the boy, took the button back from him and returned it to the rightful owner. It was all very chivalrous and noble. Very Robin Hood and Maid Marian.

Then the boy promptly kicked me in the balls, and I was sent to the nurse’s office with an ice pack on my groin.

Yeah, the whole Robin Hood fighting things clearly wasn’t for me.

But don’t let the small frame fool you, I’m a scrappy little nugget when I need to be. Especially if I have a pair of tap shoes on.

• Ever think you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, details …: I’ve been flying since I was a few weeks old. Both my parents are from the East Coast, but I was raised in Southern California. So flying cross-country was always a part of my life to see family. I’m very comfortable flying…I sincerely don’t fear death in a plane.

I have a much bigger fear of death by standing in the check-in line or getting felt up by an unruly TSA agent. Does that count?

  • Aaron

    Great interview! Very fun to read.

  • http://www.thewanderingju.com Judi

    Jeff:
    I loved, loved, loved your article, “My bookstore is on death row.” One of the girls at work – we are both readers -gave it to me. The paragraph beginning with, “At the risk of sounding like my great aunt,…” sums it all up. Books! Who doesn’t love ‘em? Thank you for your words. They are a humorous look into the future – and it is frightening. Give me a book, a handfull of those “sign here” stickies to use as a book mark and/or to reference something I want to return to, and I’m in heaven. When my children were learning to read, I told them that reading a book could take them anywhere, show them anything, and with that book in their hand they could be anybody. I just don’t think a Kindle or Nook has that ability.

    Have a wonderful day. Judi ;-] http://www.thewanderingju.com

Showtime Book
Love Me, Hate Me Barry Bonds Book
Sweetness Walter Peyton Book
The Bad Guys Won Book
The Rocket that Fell to Earth Book
Boys Will Be Boys Book

Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life