BWW Interview: Andy Huntington Jones Talks THE BOOK OF MORMON
THE BOOK OF MORMON appears on the Hobby Center stage through January 20, 2019. Andy Huntington Jones (Elder McKinley) talks about the good intentions behind the raunchy, yet incisive, jokes found in the musical comedy by the co-creator of AVENUE Q, Robert Lopez, and "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
Like THE BOOK OF MORMON, Andy Huntington Jones is making a triumphant return to Houston. The New York-based actor starred as Prince Topher in Theatre Under the Stars' critically acclaimed production of CINDERELLA, a production that our reviewer called "dreamy goodness."
This weekend, he plays the repressed Elder McKinley, a white bread Mormon-American brother stationed in Uganda. The elder missionary serves as mentor to mission companions Elder Kevin Price and Elder Arnold Cunningham, two mismatched companions who have just graduated from the training center to a war-torn village in eastern Africa. "[Elder McKinley] handles adversity by smiling through it, and pushing through with quite a bit of denial," the actor says.
The differences between THE BOOK OF MORMON and CINDERELLA are distinct, but the shows are not so dissimilar. Both possess a fair amount of earnestness.
"So much of [THE BOOK OF MORMON] is very sincere. The writing, the plot and a lot of the language, is tongue in cheek. But thrust into it are these young missionaries who think that they can change the world," says Huntington Jones. "And then they realize it's a little harder than they thought it was going to be."
Much harder. The Mormon missionaries must face down cholera, AIDS, a baby rapist, and General Butt-Fucking Naked, a machine-gunning warlord hell-bent on genital mutilation.
THE BOOK OF MORMON tackles heavy subject matter, but the jokes land.
The music is good. BroadwayWorld.com reviewer Brett Cullum says the book nearly matches Sondheim in "narrative complexity and density of words."
And it's filled with moving pieces. Literally. Co-director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw has stuffed the musical with choreography. There's more dancing in this comedy musical than in OKLAHOMA! and WEST SIDE STORY combined. (OK, that might be an exaggeration, but you get the point. THE BOOK OF MORMON has a lot of dance numbers.)
But more than that, the writing does something special, it provides some real growth for characters that are, by all accounts, outrageously stereotypical and simplified. Nabulungi, one of the Ugandan villagers, starts the show as a youthful, naive girl and ends it as a woman.
It's about faith, the Huntington Jones says, the strengths of faith, the limits of faith and, in the end, importance of faith. "I think that's one of the reasons the show has stuck around for so long. It's not without heart. There's a message."
THE BOOK OF MORMON is directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker. Set design by Scott Pask, costume design by Ann Roth, lighting design by Brian MacDevitt and sound design by Brian Ronan. Orchestrations are by Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus. Music direction and vocal arrangements are by Stephen Oremus.
Andy Huntington Jones is a New York-based actor, currently playing Elder McKinley in THE BOOK OF MORMON on tour. His Broadway credits include CATS (Munkustrap), BULLETS OVER BROADWAY and CINDERELLA. Tours: CINDERELLA (Prince Topher), WEST SIDE STORY (Riff). Regional: Muny, North Shore Music Theatre, Maltz Jupiter.
The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts is operated by the Hobby Center Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Its mission is to expand Houston's reputation as a world-class cultural center by providing a premier performing arts facility, fostering accessibility to the performing arts and promoting arts education, with an emphasis on musical theater. Learn more at TheHobbyCenter.org.
BROADWAY ACROSS AMERICA (BAA) is part of The John Gore Organization family of companies, which includes Broadway.com and The Broadway Channel. Led by 11-time Tony-winning producer John Gore (Owner & CEO), BAA is the foremost presenter of first-class touring productions in North America, operating in 44 markets with over 400,000 subscribers. Current and past productions include Beautiful, Cats, Chicago, Dear Evan Hansen, Groundhog Day, Hairspray, Hello, Dolly!, Million Dollar Quartet, On Your Feet!, The Producers, School of Rock and Waitress. For more information please visit BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com.
THE BOOK OF MORMON runs through January 20, 2019, at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For tickets, call (713) 315-2525 or (800) 982-2787 or visit TheHobbyCenter.org or BroadwayAtTheHobbyCenter.com. Group orders of 10 or more may be placed by calling (888) 451-5986 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about the THE BOOK OF MORMON at BookofMormonTheMusical.com. Follow the musical on Twitter and on Facebook.
Photo courtesy of BAA