BWW Interview: Alyah Chanelle Scott On Her Dream Role in THE BOOK OF MORMON
The national tour of THE BOOK OF MORMON makes its latest missionary stop at the Ahmanson Theatre, opening February 18, 2020. Birthed from the comically fertile minds of South Park creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, THE BOOK OF MORMON follows the misadventures of newbie missionaries travelling globally to convert the world. I managed to persuade Alyah Chanelle Scott (who plays possible convertee Nabulungi) to convert my surveying queries into her most informative answers.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Alyah!
How are your shows going in Tucson?
They're going well! The audience we had last night was so great. It always makes our jobs more fun when we feel lots of energy coming back at us from the audience.
Would you describe the audition process you went through to land Nabulungi, your national tour debut role?
Sure! I was a senior in college when I was first asked to audition, and I will never forget it. Mostly because Nabulungi is a role I'd always dreamt of playing. I'd sing "Sal Tlay Ka Siti" in my voice lessons and for master classes. I knew that I really resonated with the character and just loved the music. So when I got the email requesting a self tape for the role, I was on cloud nine. I filmed my audition tape at 11:00 pm after a long rehearsal for a show I was in. With our schedules at Michigan, there was really no other time to get it done. Ha, ha! Because it was so late, I couldn't find anyone to help me read the sides, so I got my boyfriend to make voice recordings saying the other characters' lines. Long story short, they liked the tape, and I flew to New York for a work session and final call back.
There's a bizarre thing that happens when you really connect with a character, and I'm not quite sure how to describe it. I'm sure other actors know this feeling. It feels like the audition room disappears along with your nerves, and it's like you leave and are entirely in the world of your character. Then you walk out of the room, come to, and immediately try to remember and analyze what just happened. Ha, ha! So then later that same week, I got the call that I'd gotten the role!
Had you seen a production of THE BOOK OF MORMON before?
Yep! In high school, I saw the first national tour when it came through Houston, in 2014, I believe.
If you were to submit Nabulungi on an online dating site, what qualities of hers would you list?
Ooooh, that's a great question. I'd say she's very optimistic and eager to try new things, but also gentle and caring.
What character flaws would you finesse or omit?
Because she is so hopeful and optimistic, she can also be a little naive at times, which gets her into trouble. She just really believes in people... a bit more than she should at times. Ha, ha!
For those who haven't seen THE BOOK OF MORMON, what would your three-line pitch of it be?
It's a story that follows an odd pair of Mormon missionaries who get sent across the world on their mission. They have high hopes to fulfill their mission and change the world, but as they experience this new place with complex people and shocking situations unlike anything they've seen before, they find that the world actually ends up changing them.
Los Angeles will be the third stop (of thirteen) of your national tour, after Tucson February 11 - 16. When did you begin rehearsals?
I started rehearsing last summer, June of 2019.
Your first number "Sal Tlay Ka Siti" doesn't come until mid-first act. What do you do backstage before your entrance? Compose yourself in your dressing room? Stand in the wings to watch the musical craziness happening onstage?
Honestly, whatever I feel like that day. I always warm up. Sometimes I'll review little notes I've written down. I love to watch the show from the wings because it's different every night, and my cast is just hilarious. My guilty pleasure lately has become TikTok, so lately I've been watching or making TikToks before I go onstage... like the serious actor I am. Ha,ha!
Any touring tips you've been given that you're been trying out?
Meditate. Journal. Find things to keep you mentally and emotionally grounded and healthy, because touring can be disorienting and make everything in your life feel a bit temporary. It can really mess with you, if you don't make the time to check in with yourself.
Any cities you're scheduled to play that you're super excited to visit?
All of the cities we're about to play in this upcoming leg of the tour are exciting! However, Los Angeles has been a big one for me. I've always been curious about what it would be like to live here!
When you understudied PIPPIN's Leading Player at Music Theatre Wichita, did you ever get to go on?
Not for an actual performance, but I'd stand in for her during rehearsals and such.
You also understudied Esmeralda in HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, also at Music Theatre Wichita. How do you learn the role and maintain your part in the ensemble's rehearsals? Do you shadow the lead when you're not rehearsing choreography?
My summers in Wichita were some of the best and most transformative times for me as an artist. I think learning a show in such a short amount of time (10 days) taught me a lot about the discipline and genuine work it takes to put a good show together. Understudying at Music Theatre Wichita was sort of like interning. You'd get to watch a professional artist's creative process up close and study what it meant to create a character and lead a show, which definitely prepared me for this role.
Do you have a superstition or a lucky ritual you perform before every show?
I memorized Martha Graham's great "There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening..." quote and say that to myself before going onstage every night.
What one item will you be placing on your various dressing room tables?
An essential oil spray, my crystals, and Angel Cards. They help center me and make each dressing room space feel a little less foreign.
Thank you again, Alyah! I look forward to experiencing the MORMON conversions.
For ticket availability and show schedule through March 29, 2020; log onto www.centertheatregroup.org
For future tour cities and schedule, log onto www.bookofmormonbroadway.com