The Book of Mormon is probably one of the biggest shows to hit Memphis and it opens Tuesday March 15th. In a very small amount of time, the show has become a cultural touchstone with it’s offensive yet brilliant humor, and has also breathed some much needed life into the Broadway scene. The New York Times hailed it as, “The best musical of the century” and it is the winner of nine Tony awards.
I spoke with Dance Captain JR Bruno about how he got involved with the show, and how dance drives the story. He also gave me some nice insights on what his day-to-day schedule is like, and why you should consider seeing the show next week (with the off-chance you’re on the fence).
Please, read on!
1) Hi JR! How did you first become involved with The Book of Mormon?
I auditioned for this show in New York City in 2012 and got the call on Christmas Eve that they liked me and wanted me to be a part of it. They swept me up and I’ve been bouncing around from company to company from city to city for about 4 years now.
2) As Dance Captain, how does dance fit into the show and help tell the story?
One of my favorite choreographers right now is Casey. He does such a good job of creating character driven choreography that serves the moment and the story. There’s some technique involved of course (including tap dancing), but my favorite part of teaching the show to new cast members is explaining why a dance step looks a certain way, because there is always a reason.
3) What is an average day for you like on tour when you’re prepping for a show?
I have busy days. I get up, work out, eat, lots of days I have rehearsal, then type up my notes from the night before, get to the theater and give out my notes, either get make up and hair done for the show, or I figure out where I will be watching the show from, then afterwards I check out the local night life. I’m sure I eat again somewhere in there…
4) For some readers who may not be as familiar with the role of Dance Captain, could you explain what some of your jobs are in the show?
So as a performer I cover 7 of the tracks in the show, and go on for them when they are out of the show for whatever reason. Other than that, my assistant Jevares and I teach the show to all the new company members, and run dance clean up rehearsals with the cast. I also make sure all of my swings and understudies are as prepared as possible. And I have to say I’ve never worked with a better group of understudies and swings, they make my job very easy.
5) How did you first get into dancing?
My mother runs Head to Toe Dance, a neighborhood dance school in Cincinnati. She was a dancer growing up and I got the show biz bug after being on a TV show as a kid. Then my mom and dad got me into dance class and I worked with a lot of great teachers until I got confident enough to pursue it as a career.
6) You’ve been involved with a number of Broadway shows. What has been your favorite one to work on and why?
Book of Mormon is at the top of my list of awesome shows I’ve gotten to do. I loved doing Spelling Bee and had the honor of being the first guy to play Hunter in [title of show] after Hunter himself. I always love doing smart funny shows because it means you get to spend you time around smart and funny people all day. That’s what makes those my favorites.
7) What do you think makes The Book of Mormon such a cultural conversation and hit?
Well to not mention the brilliant creators of the show would be silly. (Ed. note: JR is talking about the fantastic creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, of South Park fame) All the creative team are brilliant and handle satire with so much understanding. It’s not just a gratuitous show for laughs, but the heart behind the show is what makes it so special in my opinion. We can get away with saying controversial things because we say it with a purpose. Without giving anything away, I’ll just say “stick around until the end”.
8) What has surprised you most about coming on to such a huge touring show like The Book of Mormon?
At first what surprised me the most was how well received the show is in so many different parts of the country. We’ve had great audiences and fans in smaller places and we’ve had great audiences and fans in big cities. But more so, now I’m surprised at how after 4 years, there are parts of this show that I still laugh at every night. It’s an easy show to be a part of.
Showtimes and ticket info for the Book of Mormon are as follows:
DATES: March 15 – 20, 2016
• Tuesday, March 15, 2016 7:30 PM
• Wednesday, March 16, 2016 7:30 PM
• Thursday, March 17, 2016 7:30 PM
• Friday, March 18, 2016 8:00 PM
• Saturday, March 19, 2016 2:00 PM
• Saturday, March 19, 2016 8:00 PM
• Sunday, March 20, 2016 1:00 PM
• Sunday, March 20, 2016 6:30 PM
TICKETS: Starting at $44
BOX OFFICE: 901.525.3000
GROUP SALES: 901.529.4226
If you aren’t able to get tickets–or you’re working off a budget–then have no fear! The Orpheum’s Ticket Lottery has returned. Info from the venue follows:
“Entries will be accepted at the box office beginning two and a half hours prior to each performance; each person will print their name and the number of tickets (1 or 2) they wish to purchase on a card that is provided. Two hours before curtain, names will be drawn at random for a limited number of tickets priced at $25 each. Only one entry is allowed per person. Cards are checked for duplication prior to drawing. Winners must be present at the time of the drawing and show valid ID to purchase tickets. Limit one entry per person and two tickets per winner. Tickets are subject to availability.”