feature photo by Julieta Cervante
Book of Mormon, a humorous look at Mormon beliefs (and the importance of love and community), is returning to Philadelphia! This incredibly funny musical comes from Trey Parker and Matt Stone of TV’s South Park fame, along with co-creator Robert Lopez (Avenue Q, Frozen) and director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw (Something Rotten!, Mean Girls, The Prom). This must-see show is Broadway gold, winning NINE Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book and Best Direction. If you didn’t experience the show last time it came to Philly, do not miss out this time.
We spoke with Kayla Pecchioni who plays Nabulungi, a villager in Uganda where Elder Price and Elder Cunningham are sent on their mission. Keep reading to find out more about her musical theatre background, her work with Broadway Bodies, and some details on the show!
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in musical theatre? Tell us a bit about your background in theatre and dance.
A: I was pretty much raised in the theatre my grandmother started in Louisville, but was always more of a dancer. I trained in all styles and went to a performing arts high school for dance. During my senior year, I had a few friends encourage me to audition for the musical and I landed a principal role. I really haven’t looked back since!
Q: Prior to touring the US with Book of Mormon, you were on tour internationally with Dreamgirls. What are some similarities/differences between the national/international audiences?
A: When I was doing Dreamgirls, we rehearsed and performed in South Korea, and, as you can imagine, there are a vast number of differences with a Korean audience. We were lucky enough to be able to perform the show in English, but the audiences needed subtitles. Similarities? The Book of Mormon in America and Dreamgirls in Korea are both highly anticipated shows in each country, so I feel very grateful to have been able to experience both on two different sides of the world.
Q: Were you familiar with Book of Mormon before joining the cast? How did it feel to find out you would get to tour with this show?
A: Mormon debuted on Broadway when I was in college and it was all anyone could talk about. I saw the touring cast in Cincinnati in 2014 and that exposed me to the story. So when they asked me to join I was definitely aware of how large the shoes were that I was stepping into. It was a simultaneously terrifying and exciting experience.
Q: For anyone unfamiliar with Book of Mormon, what can you say about your character Nabulungi…without giving anything away! How are you like/dislike her?
A: Nabulungi is the Ugandan village sweetheart and dreams of giving her community a better life. When Elder Price and Elder Cunningham are sent on their mission to Uganda, Nabulungi is immediately invested and tries to encourage the entire village to join the church.
Q: What did you to do prepare for the role?
A: I had two weeks between the time I found out I had the role and when I debuted as Nabulungi. It was my first time playing a principal role, so the amount of time I had to learn the material was a challenge in itself. And when I was in college I purposely got myself signed out of accents class, so having to encounter that with this show added an even larger challenge. It was a real test in my confidence, pushing all of that aside to accomplish a goal much larger than myself.
Q: Favorite song from Book of Mormon?
A: My favorite song changes daily. We’re fortunate to gel so well as a cast and that helps keep the show lively each night. I could love “Turn It Off” one night and then love “Hasa Diga” even more the next.
Q: When you aren’t on tour, you work with something called “Broadway Bodies”. Can you tell us about that and what it means to you?
A: Yes! Broadway Bodies isn’t your typical dance studio. They pride themselves on welcoming people of all identities, ages, and dance levels to create a shame-free dance community. You can walk into any class and not feel different or like you’re behind. As a person who has struggled with fluctuating weight and confidence, the studio became an instant safe space.
Book of Mormon is at the Academy of Music for a two-week engagement, May 28th to June 9th. You can purchase tickets here. Low-priced lottery seats are also available for every city on the show’s national tour. Entries will be accepted at the Academy of Music box office beginning two and a half hours prior to each performance; each person can request up to two tickets (at $25 each). Two hours before curtain, names will be drawn at random. Only one entry is allowed per person! 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.