BWW Interview: Alexandra Ncube Shows Youthful Advantage in MORMON
Alexandra Ncube, who plays Nabalungi in her National Tour debut with The Book of Mormon, is so young that one might think she is very green. Her on stage ease and self-assuredness belie that concept. As the leading female in the show, her performance sparkles with wit, especially in her satirical song, "Sal Tlay Ka Siti" (Salt Lake City). Alexandra, who holds a B.A. in Theatre from Arizona State University, has appeared in such stage favorites as Spring Awakening (Martha) and Rent (Mimi).
EM: You've played the all-important lead role of Mimi in the hit show Rent. Were you already familiar with the opera version on which it was based, Puccini's La bohème?
AN: Yes, I studied the opera briefly in high school and enjoyed comparing the two works.
EM: Was it a particular challenge to sing in a show that's based on an opera?
AN: I did not find it challenging, but interesting to see the differences in style and plot.
EM: The role of Nabalungi seems about as far as it gets from Mimi. How would you describe the contrasts and similarities between these two roles?
AN: I think Nabulungi and Mimi respond to their circumstances in similar ways, but not completely parallel. Despite the turmoil they both endure, they hold strong conviction in what they believe. Naba believes there is still hope to save her village from its horrific turmoil, although the other members of her community appear apathetic. Mimi believes in the power of love even while being consumed by the antagonistic drugs and disease. I believe they both embody the same naïveté, but Mimi was led down a much darker path.
EM: Do you feel a close identification with your character?
AN: Absolutely, especially with regards to the mispronunciation of her name! My last name is not well recognized in Western phonetics and is always mispronounced, which is okay. It was an immediate identification for me when I read the script. She is a lot more optimistic than I am which inspires me, and I also find her leadership and drive very similar to mine. She is such a great role full of so much depth, and I am very attached to her.
EM: That is fascinating, and it makes perfect sense! Do you have any preference for playing comedic roles such as Nabalungi, or highly dramatic roles like that of Mimi?
AN: I think there is enjoyment and challenge on both sides of the spectrum; however, I do prefer comedic roles in long-term productions because it keeps things very light-hearted!
EM: Aside from Rent, which of the shows in which you've appeared count among your favorites, and why?
AN: I loved playing Aida. I was only nineteen, and was still learning my abilities, but it was such a dream role for me and I basked in the enjoyment and growth.
EM: What is it like to perform with such a diverse, international cast?
AN: It's incredible. There were so many fruitful experiences I have been introduced to thanks to being surrounded by so many different people. They all bring something unique to the show and to life, and I am so grateful to them.
EM: Well said! You're one of the youngest cast members on the national tour. Do you feel that's an advantage or a disadvantage?
AN: I see it as an advantage. There is so much learning to do and being around people with more experience and talent than me inspired me to work even harder to strengthen my tools as an artist.
EM: How do you keep your role fresh after such an extended period of time on the road?
AN: I play games with my role. For example some shows will be perfect pitch shows, or perfect dialect or perfect choreography. I will work on fine-tuning technical skills that may have gotten tired during a long run. I will also go back to the basics of remembering my character's motives and intentions. Re-empathizing with Nabulungi is always successful.
EM: What advice would you give to young, aspiring actors?
AN: This is the road less traveled. It will take a lot of work and a LOT of self-love to be successful. Something that always resonates with me is remembering I am here to tell stories. Even in auditions, I take the pressure away from booking the role by reminding myself that I get to tell these people a story today. Maybe the role is meant for me and maybe it isn't, but at least I got the opportunity to tell a story today. That fundamental idea paired with a lot of hard work and opportunity really changed the game for me, and I found a lot more ease in my nerves, gave better performances and booked more jobs!
Photo credits: Joan Marcus