Playing for a record-breaking six-week run in Philadelphia in 2014, The Book of Mormon returns to thrill audiences until December 27 at Philadelphia’s Forrest Theatre. J.R. Bruno is the dance captain/swing for The Book of Mormon. He had the opportunity before opening night to speak about his role in the show, and his Philadelphia audiences.
RM: Can you tell us what you’ve done and what you do in the show?
JR: I’ve been in West Side Story on Broadway, and Avenue Q, among other shows. I’ve been touring with Book of Mormon for three-and-a-half years now. I’m the Dance Captain/Swing, which means that I watch the show, and keep it clean and tight, staying offstage a lot and taking notes. I do occasionally step into roles. That’s where the swing part comes in, since I literally “swing” into a role if someone leaves or is ill. I cover wherever I may be needed.
RM: Can you tell us something about the show? Everyone is very tight-lipped about what happens.
JR: Well, we are sworn to secrecy, since nobody wants to ruin the show for those who haven’t seen it. In a nutshell, the official plotline of the show is that it’s principally about two Mormon missionaries to Uganda, and hijinxs (as they say) ensue. Trey Parker and Matt Stone are the creators of South Park, so the audience can expect the same irreverent humor they see in that TV show. Book of Mormon is a very comedy which deals with unpredictable situations in a very funny way. The best part is that it’s funny! It is a satire.
RM: Can you tell us what it’s like leading the kind of life that you all do as part of this Book of Mormon tour?
JR: Well, there are no one-night stands. Whenever we tour, we usually spend a week or more in one place. For example, we are spending five weeks here in Philadelphia. After Philadelphia, I believe we next go to Durham, North Carolina. The cast is put up in each city. We receive a per diem to cover expenses. That means we can live in a hotel, or if we choose, we can stay with family, friends, or double up and share a room to save money. This time, I’m staying by myself. I feel that I need some space to relax after being on stage. Our transportation is all expenses paid. We take either a plane or a bus to our next destination. We are treated very well.
RM: What will you be some highlights of your stay here in Philadelphia?
JR: All of the cast was invited to Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant. I thought that was really special. I’m excited because I’m only into the first two months of a year-and-a-half tour. I transferred out of the Latter Day tour to join the Jumamosi tour (For more information, visit http://bookofmormonbroadway.com/second-national-tour ), the Second National Tour.
RM: I have to ask you what were some of your favorite places to be on tour? I won’t ask you about the places you disliked.
JR: (Laughing) Well, I wouldn’t want to talk about anything but the great places I’ve been. I find that the best cities to be in are those where the people enjoy being there. If people really love their city it comes across. They are endlessly proud of their city. Places like Austin and Boston, for example, or Seattle. And then there’s San Francisco. I love San Francisco! Philadelphia people are the greatest. I’m really happy that we will be here long enough to get to know the city and the people who live here. Cody Strand and David Larsen (they play Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, respectively) have never been to Philadelphia, so they have a lot to experience! The last time I was here in Philadelphia was super great! The Forrest Theatre is perfect for this comedy.
RM: JR, have you ever met the South Park guys, or worked with them?
JR: Oh sure. Matt Stone, Trey Parker and Bobby Lopez all had a hand in the original production, and they also were very hands-on for the touring company. Trey and Casey Nicholow were the directors. Casey was the choreographer. We rehearsed for a month in New York. We then went to Denver to do tech work, later going to Los Angeles.
RM: You are the Dance Captain and Swing. Do the cast members often change?
JR: Yes, there is turnover, as there would be in any production, so we are no different. So there are always new people who bring new things to the show. A couple of Cody’s jokes will be new, so it will be ad-lib time. We think the audience will enjoy them.
RM: Will there be any gay Mormons – or gay Africans — in the show?
JM: There will be gay guys and gay situations in the show. There is one character who is way gay, but that is really all that I can say about that. We are young men who question many things, religion included. As gay men, we do question all of that.
The Book of Mormon will be at the Forrest Theatre, 114 Walnut Street in Philadelphia until December 27. You can purchase tickets at Telecharge.com or by calling 800-447-7400.
ALSO: Check out our video interview with KJ Hippensteel from last year's Book of Mormon HERE.