BWW Interviews: THE BOOK OF MORMON's Paris Alexander Nesbitt
First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with BroadwayWorld in Omaha today!
To get going here, tell me a little about yourself and how you got your start a performer.
I grew up in Philadelphia and got my start performing in theatre in middle school. The school that I transferred to had a fantastic summer program there called Upper Darby Summer Stage. Through the theatre program there I gradually got better at performing and realized that it was something that I loved to do. So then I went to college at Penn State University, I went to study vocal performance. In school, I was primarily studying voice to be a classical singer, but I was always performing in musicals any time I had the chance. Once I graduated, I realized that even though I studied classical music, what I really wanted to do was musical theatre, so I started auditioning in and around Philadelphia. I worked professionally at regional theatres in the area before deciding to move to New York.
Having been involved in the Chicago production of Book of Mormon for so long, are you looking forward to the tour?
Definitely! I am very excited.
I know that the first stop for the tour is going to be Omaha, NE. Have you ever been to Omaha before?
Yes. I was in Omaha in 2011 with the Broadway Dreams Foundation, working for them as an intern for their summer intensive.
Can you tell me a little bit about your time with Broadway Dreams, and how your experience with them helped you to get where you are?
I was talking earlier about my transition from classical music to musical theatre. I hit a spot in my early twenties where I didn't really know what path I wanted to go down. I saw an advertisement for the Broadway Dreams Foundation online, and it almost seemed too good to be true, so I called the phone number on their site and spoke with the Executive Director, Annette Tanner. We had probably a 20-minute conversation in which she sold me on Broadway Dreams, and I ended up going that summer as a student on scholarship and had the most incredible time. The staff and faculty kind of became my family. I had the opportunity to work with amazing, amazing people. The person who sticks out in my mind with having the most impact on me is Billy Porter, who just won a Tony for his performance in Kinky Boots on Broadway. Having the opportunity to sing for Billy was really a turning point for me, because it led to a conversation between us later that week where he pulled me aside and asked me what I was still doing in Philly. I told him I was auditioning and doing some shows regionally. He said, "You want to be on Broadway? Broadway is in New York. You need to be in New York." That just completely awakened something in me. I thought, "Ok, I'm doing this. I need to be in New York." After that summer, I started working with Broadway Dreams as an intern. I made some amazing connections and had the opportunity to perform a lot in the different intensives, including the one in Omaha. Broadway Dreams isn't just an educational program... It's also a great introduction to what the musical theatre industry really is. So, when I was moving to New York I knew what I was getting myself into. I also had contacts, which is incredibly important. So yes, Broadway Dreams gave me a leg up, no question.
That sounds great! Taking a moment to jump back to Book of Mormon... Even after a few years of being on Broadway and in Chicago and on tour, it's still such an incredibly popular show. Had you seen it before you auditioned?
*laughs* No! I couldn't get tickets!
Going into audition for Book of Mormon, I'm sure there was a huge turnout to be a part of this hit musical. Can you tell me a little about your audition experience?
The audition was very intensive, but I was very fortunate. I had just moved to NYC and my incredible agent, Lisa Price of The Price Group, called me one day with an appointment for Book of Mormon. Really, I kind of though it was a joke at first, because I was so new to the city and my resume did not look like what I thought it needed to, to get an appointment for a show like this. I went to the audition for the very first national tour. I didn't hear anything for a while, and then out of the blue I got a callback, followed by a final callback. I didn't hear anything, so I figured I didn't get it. I kept auditioning for other productions in New York while I waited. Then my agent called me and said they wanted to see me for the Chicago production of Book of Mormon, which I thought was cool. For that audition process, I had two callbacks again with the creative team. After a short wait, I got the call that I booked it. It sounds like it took a while, but from the first audition it all went pretty fast.