“The Book of Mormon” runs Jan. 12-24 at the Fox Theatre.
JEVARES MYRICK was a middle-school student in Cobb County when he made his first trip to the Fox Theatre. As he watched, agog, at a touring company staging of Annie, he admits that he “didn’t really know what was going on.” But he was intrigued enough to return to the Fox for a second show: The Phantom of the Opera.
“And then I was like, ‘Oh, wow, I want to do this!’” he recalls. So, he did. When the national touring company of The Book of Mormon arrives this week for its second Atlanta run, Myrick gets a 180-degree flip in his point of view, onstage singing and dancing in the ensemble and looking out into the sold-out theater.
“I am just so excited to play the Fox for the first time,” he says.
He’ll do it in one of the most popular Broadway shows of the 21st century so far. With book, music and lyrics by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (“South Park”) and Robert Lopez (Avenue Q), The Book of Mormon won nine Tony awards in 2011, including best musical. It continues to sell out eight times a week on Broadway, and has two national touring companies.
A politically incorrect whirlwind in which naïve Mormon missionaries are sent to Uganda, Mormon combines tap dancing with graphic profanity and jokes about AIDS, “We Are the World,” the Osmonds and rape.
It’s the perfect musical for the Cards Against Humanity generation.
THERE ARE INSIDE JOKES and call-outs to such musical theater giants as The Lion King, A Chorus Line, The King and I and Agnes DeMille, and plenty of pointed jabs at the tenets of Mormonism.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which many guessed might not react well, has actually accepted the musical’s popularity and built on it, sometimes buying ads in the program that say “The book is always better.”
“When I break it down for people I give them the bare minimum, ’cause I don’t want to tell them any of the jokes,” Myrick says.
A 2003 graduate of the performing arts program at Pebblebrook High School in Marietta, Myrick performed for years in Atlanta theater.
“My first professional theater gig was Smokey Joe’s Café at Atlanta Lyric Theatre,” he says. “I was just out of high school, trying not to embarrass myself.”
He eventually was nominated five times for Suzi Bass Awards, Atlanta’s version of Broadway’s Tonys.
“WE CAST HIM in Christmas Canteen so that we could have a strong dancer, and wow!” recalls Ann-Carol Pence, associate producer at Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville and a longtime metro theater mainstay.
“Not only can he sing, he can sing in any style, and he can make up harmonies on the spot. All those musical gifts are really like hitting the lottery in a performer.
“Plus, I remember him playing the piano for a song I sang in Canteen,” Pence adds. “That would rank in the highlights of my Canteens — to have another performer be at such a level that you feel he always has your back.”
Myrick was a big fan of “South Park” and was aware of Mormon, which had already opened when producers came to Atlanta to cast the touring company. After two auditions here and two more in New York, he got the call.
“I felt my heart hit the floor, I was so excited,” Myrick says.
He was a “vacation swing” for the ensemble, meaning that he would fill in for whoever was sick or on vacation in the Broadway show or either of the touring companies. Eventually he joined the Broadway ensemble for several months and has added the title of assistant dance captain for this tour.
IN ADDITION to his Mormon duties, Myrick co-wrote the hip-hop musical iLLa: The Musical with creative partner Ronvè O’Daniel (also a Pebblebrook grad). “It’s the story of a young ballet dancer who has dreams of becoming a hip-hop star and his battles with being accepted,” Myrick says. “A story of self-love, having swagger, just really being true to yourself.”
When not on the road, Myrick sings with Big Night, a metro wedding and corporate band, and the tribute band Almost Elton John.
Metro Atlanta is still home, specifically Hiram in Cobb County, where he and his girlfriend and their baby have a new house, he says. “I’m just looking forward to hanging out at home with my family.”