'The Book of Mormon' tour features locals in its fourth Chicago visit

  • Mrs. Brown (Monica L. Patton), left, offers a mission send off to Elder Price (Kevin Clay) and Elder Cunningham (Conner Peirson) in "The Book of Mormon." The national tour returns to Chicago at the Oriental Theatre from Nov. 20 to Dec. 2.

    Mrs. Brown (Monica L. Patton), left, offers a mission send off to Elder Price (Kevin Clay) and Elder Cunningham (Conner Peirson) in "The Book of Mormon." The national tour returns to Chicago at the Oriental Theatre from Nov. 20 to Dec. 2. Courtesy of Julieta Cervantes

  • Chicago native Jacques C. Smith stars as Mafala Hatimbi in the national tour of "The Book of Mormon."

    Chicago native Jacques C. Smith stars as Mafala Hatimbi in the national tour of "The Book of Mormon."

  • Former Naperville and Aurora resident Henry McGinniss is a swing in the national tour of "The Book of Mormon."

    Former Naperville and Aurora resident Henry McGinniss is a swing in the national tour of "The Book of Mormon."

 
 
Updated 11/17/2018 6:12 PM

For replacement actors who get cast in a long-running hit Broadway show, the experience can feel like jumping aboard a speeding train.

This was the case for two actors with Chicago-area ties who joined "The Book of Mormon" national tour last spring. They're both excited to be heading home for the fourth Windy City visit of this adults-only musical comedy by "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker with Robert Lopez ("Avenue Q," "Frozen").

 

"Your job as a performer is to make sure that you tell the story as clearly as it's been told before because it already works," said Jacques C. Smith, a native of Harvey. "But then as an individual artist, you have to make sure that you can still bring some nuance of how you interpret it."

Smith plays Mafala Hatimbi, father to the heroine Nabulungi (Kayla Pecchioni). He's a Ugandan village leader who schools two naive missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints played by Kevin Clay and Conner Peirson. As a father to a 10-year-old son and a former teacher at Thornridge High School in Dolton, the role suits Smith nicely.

"I was always the young guy," Smith said. "I haven't had that many opportunities to (play dads) in my career."

As a veteran of the Broadway tours "Rent" and "If/Then," Smith already has played Chicago's Oriental Theatre. But it's a first for former Naperville and Aurora resident Henry McGinniss, who is making his touring debut.

"I'm so excited that I get to perform on that stage," said McGinniss, a Roosevelt University alum whose local credits in 2016 included "Hairspray" at Aurora's Paramount Theatre and "Bat Boy" for Chicago's Griffin Theatre.

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McGinniss is a swing in "The Book of Mormon," understudying the repressed Elder McKinley and seven other ensemble roles. McGinniss is scheduled to go on for at least one Chicago performance.

"I've understudied internally one or two roles in a show before, but nothing of this nature," McGinniss said. "It definitely has been a big learning process for me juggling all these parts at a Broadway caliber."

For their Chicago return, both Smith and McGinniss are looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with family and friends, plus dining out at their favorite restaurants. But they're also glad to be back in a town that nurtured their artistic ambitions to become performers.

"The work being done (in Chicago) is so important, whether it's a storefront theater or a big Equity house," McGinniss said. "It's such a great community of people who are really dedicated to telling important stories."

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