BWW Interview: Andy Huntington Jones in THE BOOK OF MORMON on Tour

BWW Interview: Andy Huntington Jones in THE BOOK OF MORMON on Tour

As THE BOOK OF MORMON tours around North America, it has sold-out in city after city. Locals enjoy the opportunity to laugh and have a fun evening watching THE BOOK OF MORMON while they forget their outside worries. Currently on tour with the company is Andy Jones who is playing the role of Elder McKinley. BWW recently caught up with him as the tour prepared to come to Austin, Texas.

Tell us a little more about you and how you got interested in preforming.

I grew up north of Boston and I fell in love with theater when I was a kid. I was in a production of THE WIZARD OF OZ when I was eight and was hooked then. I went to school for theater. I went to Thu University of Michigan and got a degree in Musical Theater. I moved to New York and have been working since I moved there. I feel like THE BOOK OF MORMON is the perfect show to be in at this stage of my relationship with the performing arts because I started because it was fun, quite frankly. I kept doing it because I was moderately good at it. At a certain point, when you're living your life and travelling around the country, there's not a whole lot of stability as an actor. There's a lot of uncertainties and many people don't pursue it for that reason. I staying solely because it was fun was not a motivator and I find the reason I'm still doing it and one of the reasons that I love THE BOOK OF MORMON so much is because there is nothing like the feeling you get from brightening up someone's day and making someone happy in reaction to a piece of art. THE BOOK OF MORMON gets a lot of really strong reactions. The show is unbelievably funny and it's surprising. We say a lot things that aren't normally talked about. Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez wrote this show. And Trey and Matt are the creators of SOUTH PARK. SOUTH PARK is known for its really, really crude sense of humor. Some of that sense of humor is in THE BOOK OF MORMON. I think it all serves this deep truth which is what this show's all about. It's that we all have a need to connect and we are all searching for meaning in our lives. I think that, since I've committed my life to being an actor and to accept the uncertainty that come with that. It's fulfilling to be part of a show that I think validates people's need to feel included and to have meaning. In conclusion...I guess I started because singing and dancing [were] super fun and I was ok at it. But, I think that to be in a room of 2,000 people forgetting their worries and their cares for the day and going on this journey with these people. There's nothing like live theater and there's nothing like a show like this where the room is just filled with laughter and love for two hours.

How did you come about getting the part in THE BOOK OF MORMON?

I just closed a year and a half run of CATS on Broadway in December. Just a couple of weeks before I finished that run, I didn't have any work lined up. My agent called and said that I had an audition. I went in and auditioned a couple of times then I joined the tour at the end of January. The story of me joining this particular production [of THE BOOK OF MORMON] was pretty straight forward. The show's been around for seven years and I'd auditioned for them a couple of times before. I actually auditioned for them the first year it was on Broadway right when I graduated from college. Nothing really lined up. The role of Elder McKinley - he's the leader of the Mormon Missionaries in Africa. He's having a hard time delivering on his goals to baptize a bunch of Africans to the Mormon faith when they have bigger fish to fry. He handles it like he handles all the other obstacles in his life with a smile and he is overwhelmingly positive even in really unfortunate situations. It's a part that I honestly never saw myself playing because I'm quite different from how it's been done before. It was a real surprise when I got the audition in the first place. I was like, "Are you sure you want me to audition for this?" It's been really fun to see this character is dealing with some personal demons that he doesn't want to accept. I don't look a lot like other people who have played this part before and I think that there's something to be said about that. No matter how someone looks, you never know what they're going through - what they're dealing with on the inside. It's a really validating part to play. Very funny and I think there's a lot to be learned from this character. He learns how to accept himself.

Have you had any opportunities to chat with Mormons about the play?

I have actually. I've had a couple of people who have seen the show who are Mormon. A lot of times if a Mormon comes to see our musical, they'll already understand what they are getting involved in. They know we are going to lampoon their faith a little bit. However, I think that Mormons and Non-Mormons seeing the show, the beginning of the show, yes there is some laughing at the parts of the Mormon Faith that are a little bit farfetched to most of us and even to some people within that faith, but that's really a small part of the show. I think the bigger meaning and the bigger message is that we all - all faiths - and all people without a specific faith are looking for meaning and looking to find sense in this world. The world can be really scary if you don't have that. I think that often the show from the outside looks like it's just going to be two hours of watching us make fun of Mormons. It's really not that. I think because of that the reaction from the people who see the show who are in the faith has been pretty positive. There are Mormons of course that don't like that we're making fun of their faith and I understand that. But, I have had only pretty much positive experiences. I've been really impressed with how the church has taken the opportunity to advertise in the Playbill. It's really smart. I imagine that some people have joined the church because of the show. Something that has impressed me about the show is that so much is the sense of humor is so funny and so much fun is poked and that is a big part of the experience. Seeing it more and more, once I knew what the jokes were and I was learning the show, before I was performing, I was watching a lot from front and the once shocking parts are less shocking parts are less shocking when you what's gonna happen. I was struck by the truth of the need that these people had. The truth of the desire of the Africans to find the way, the desire, of missionaries to help and the frustration with the inability to help. I think one of the reasons the show has been such a success because most musicals, even if they're not great, are a form of escape. As escapist as this may be, at the end, there's something that relates to everybody's life. It celebrates humanity at its core at the end of the show. It celebrates community and it celebrates faith and it celebrates not knowing entirely and the desire to know what this is all about. I think that the pairing of the escapism with the real world application to everyone's life is one of the reasons that people resonate with the show.

The entire cast will be making their way to Austin, Texas April 17-22nd. Go to the Texas Performing Arts website to order your tickets now.

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From This Author Kathy Strain

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