“What is it about The Book of Mormon and why is everyone so excited about it?” A good question isn’t it? You may even be asking it yourself. There hasn’t been a production that has been this large of a phenomenon since the one about that green girl named Elphaba.
With nine Tony Awards®, including Best Musical, The Book of Mormon has become one of Broadway’s biggest hit musicals. Written by the creators of South Park (Trey Parker, Matt Stone) and the co-writer of Avenue Q (Robert Lopez), the musical is a satire of Broadway and religion among other contemporary topics. While controversial at first, the buzz around the show has turned into fascination.
For Georgia native Grey Henson, the opportunity couldn’t have been more perfect or exciting. As Elder McKinley, Henson has been able to watch audiences all across the country embrace the show, even ones that, on paper, should be offended by it (and everyone will have a chance to be equally satirized).
He has been surprised by the audience reaction in each city for far. Based on the material, you would think that large numbers of people would walk out, but that hasn’t happened. “I’ve been surprised by certain demographics in audience,” Henson Mentions. “In Texas the show got a huge response.”
Like Spring Awakening the show does bring in a younger audience, exposing many to theater for the first time. “We get a bunch of South Park fans, and we do get younger audiences with a teen to early 20s fan base,” he explains.
But those that enjoy the show span the spectrum of all ages. Henson states that “everyone seems to enjoy it,” even “women in their late 80.” What makes the show so palatable is its formula, which follows the format of classic musical.
“It’s a traditional, all-American musical with 21st Century hot-button issues that I think are important,” he mentions. “All told through the lens of South Park.”
Playing the character, who he describes as wanting to be “the perfect Mormon,” happens to be his first professional role. Elder McKinley is a District Leader in Uganda, where Elder Price and Elder Cunningham are sent on their mission. However, he has a secret that he’d rather keep hidden.
“He has a tragic flaw, which I won’t say so I won’t ruin the surprise,” Henson says. But, he does get to explore those feelings in the song “Turn It Off,” which Henson enjoys singing each night because it is “silly and fun.”
Born in Macon, he began performing as dancer, but when he joined the Youth Actors’ Company under the direction of Katy Thompson at Theatre Macon, his love of acting flourished. While there he built a camaraderie with fellow actors, and it was that experience that made him want to study theater in college.
Many of those friends from the theater group and family members will travel north to the city to see home during the Atlanta run of the show at the Fox Theatre. “It will be nice to have a reunion with people who shaped who I am today,” he says.
Presented by Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Atlanta, The Book of Mormon plays at the Fox Theatre through February 9, 2014. For more information, please visit www.broadwayinatlanta.com. Tickets are available at the Fox Theatre box office, online or by phone at 1-855-ATLTIXX.
By: Kenny Norton