“What is theatre? No, I’m just f—ing with you.” South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone couldn’t have chosen a better way to greet the masses of fans that packed the Broadway house at The Book of Mormon’s second annual Fan Day performance. The audience was comprised of more than a thousand Mormon enthusiasts who had previously lost the daily ticket lottery, but were lucky enough to land a coveted spot at the June 6 performance, which was created as an opportunity to give back to the show’s legions of followers.
“You can just tell the vibe, even walking in, how excited people are that they’re having this opportunity,” said star (and 2011 Tony Award winner) Nikki M. James backstage, where the audible buzz from the fans waiting beneath the marquee carried through the dressing rooms. “Everyone in that [theater] is celebrating how cool and fun this show is,” added co-star Rory O’Malley. “And it’s the closest that I’ll ever come to feeling like a rockstar.”
Although leading men Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad (who used Fan Day as his final performance before departing the production) received said rockstar welcomes when they entered the stage door, the Mormon fans waiting outside weren’t the rabid, wild bunch that you might expect—but you can probably chalk that up to exhaustion, as the line-up for the open-seating performance began as early as midnight.
“We’ve been waiting for twelve hours,” said Scott Dennis, 22, and Eden Sela, 26, who slept through the night to secure their plushy first spots in the line. “We were thinking about doing the whole 2 a.m. thing, but we were too anxious, so we got here at midnight, squatted down and that was that.”
Behind Dennis and Sela was another duo–Matthew Nieves, 28, and Angela Perdoncin, 27, both of whom were moved by the producers’ generosity in giving back to the would-be audience members who have supported the musical by showing up to the lottery daily. “I don’t know any Broadway shows that have done this, and I think it’s really great to show respect and appreciation for the fans who show up and sometimes get turned away,” said Nieves, who arrived at 12:30 a.m.
When the performance finally started, it was clear from the start that this was Gad’s show. Chewing up every piece of scenery there was, Gad brought a surge of energy that grew with every cheer from the fans. Of course, the show’s other stars received their share of enthusiastic responses–O’Malley’s “Turn It Off” was revelatory, while Rannells’ act two showstopper “I Believe” earned the loudest crowd roar of the entire performance. An emotional curtain call–and a few choice additions on Gad’s behalf throughout the she show–brought the audience to an immediate standing ovation during the show’s final moments, sending Gad off with all the praise that he deserved. Rannells will get his due when he departs the show this coming Sunday, June 10–coincidentally the same date as the Tony Awards.