BWW Interviews: Q & A with THE BOOK OF MORMON Star Syesha Mercado
Syesha Mercado has captured Chicago's heart with her big voice and endearing performance as Nabulungi in "The Book of Mormon". Third place "American Idol" finalist, singer, songwriter, actress, and model, Syesha can do it all! Before she heads out of town with "The Book of Mormon" tour (last performance in Chicago at the Bank of America Theatre is October 6th), we caught up with the charming and talented Syesha to chat about her time with "The Book of Mormon" and her multi-faceted career:
What's the run of "The Book of Mormon" in Chicago been like for you?
It's been an exciting experience! I love my cast members. I love the city of Chicago. It feels like home and the audiences have just been so welcoming to us.
Yes, we love having you here! You have one of the most endearing characters in the show. What's it like to play this kind of character in a show like "The Book of Mormon" that is so full of extreme characters? Was it difficult to find those sincere moments amid all the hilarity?
I love playing Nabulungi because she's so innocent, she's so humble, and she's just a breath of fresh air amidst all of the chaos and poverty and craziness. I really love going on that journey with her every night. She really is just a ball of light and I think she is the one character that they really don't make fun of in the show, so that makes me happy! But, it was a little difficult when I came into the show because I was a replacement, so I actually learned everything in two weeks. During tech rehearsal I learned the entire show, so the normal process that I do was completely different from what I did with this. I was just so concerned with learning my lines and learning everything that I think that more of the character work came later on during the run. I started finding new things: how to find the vulnerability and the honesty and what 'Sal Tlay Ka Siti' really means to me. I'm still learning a lot and I'm still growing in the role and it's just fun, but it's still a process for me, finding new things every night.
Had you seen the show before you cast? If you had, what was your impression? If you hadn't, what had you heard about it?
No, I never saw the show, but a lot of people told me, "Oh my gosh, you would be a great Nabulungi!" I'm like, "What? Book of Mormon? What is that about?" Like, I'd see these guys in white suits, I'm like, "I don't know what that's about! What is that about?" But, I was always excited to see the show and I still haven't seen a production, yet, but I hear the music every night and I watch "Hello!" offstage. And, sometimes the director comes in or the musical director comes in and we'll have rehearsal, so I try to catch bits and pieces of it. But, I've never seen the show!
What are some of the craziest reactions to the show you have received?
Certain people don't laugh on certain parts. I, honestly, think that this play is hilarious and Trey Parker and Matt Stone are comedic geniuses but some people, I understand, some people don't get the humor or they're just super religious and don't understand it. But, it's surprising sometimes. I look out and certain people aren't laughing, because we see the first row every night. We have our musical director directing and then right behind him we see the first row, maybe into the second row, and on certain parts jaws are dropped. Like, during 'Hasa Diga' they're either laughing hysterically or their jaws are dropped and they're like "What's going on?"
Have you found that there is one moment that is a for-sure laugh?
Wow, there's a lot of those. What I love about this production, from what I've heard, it's very unique because the way that our Elder Cunningham, Ben Platt, portrays his character. He brings something very special and unique to it. Every night there is this part where he sings "Man Up" and there is certain vocal thing that he does with his voice that is a guaranteed laugh every single night. Just little things to me, I just notice the little things.
So, you talked about coming in later to rehearsals. Did you find it hard to become integrated with the cast?
At the beginning, I really tried. I was like, "Well, one night I have to hang out with the cast!" So, I tried my best to integrate myself and get acclimated to the city and to the cast. It was really hard because I wanted to hang out and I wanted to relax and be like, "Oh, yeah, we're opening up in a couple of weeks, I got my lines down, everything's cool!" but, you know, I had to work really hard because I had to learn everything so fast. Now it's easier to hang out with them, but I still find myself on my days off just kind of just relaxing in bed and staying to myself, just to keep all my energy! To reserve all that energy because Nabulungi is young and she's really energetic and happy. It's not like I'm sad onstage all night and I'm just like standing there, you know, I really have to have a lot of energy. I really just pace myself through the week.