CLAIM TO FAME: Scott Barnhardt ’01 performs in the ensemble, and serves as the assistant dance captain, for the megahit Broadway musical The Book of Mormon, which won the Tony for Best Musical and eight other categories in 2011.
GETTING THE GIG: In August 2010, Barnhardt was busy performing and choreographing for regional theaters, when he was called to audition for the final pre-Broadway workshop of Mormon. Rushing between rehearsals and auditions, he got the job. Why did he get the call? Years earlier, he had worked with the show’s director/choreographer, Casey Nicholaw. Taking a taxi down Eighth Avenue one day, Nicholaw happened to glimpse Barnhardt in front of a Starbucks. “Casey said to himself, ‘I have to remember to bring Scott in for the show.’ And that’s how I got the audition. Right place, right time.”
A MORMON PRIMER: Asked to describe the show in one sentence, Barnhardt offers: “A pair of mismatched Mormon missionaries get sent on their mission to a small village in war-ravaged Uganda ... And there they learn the true meaning of faith, friendship, and ‘Hada Diga Eebowai.’” Barnhardt’s missionary has a sweet nickname: Elder Pop-Tarts.
KEEPING IT FRESH: Barnhardt knew the script was “amazing, shocking, brilliant, and absurdly funny” from his first read-through, and it has never stopped making him laugh. Plus, he says, he’s surrounded by a cast “full of hysterical, insane and gloriously ridiculous people. … I’d wager to bet that my dressing room (which we lovingly call ‘Das Boot’ as it is a long, submarine-like room that fits five very funny Mormon boys) laughs more than any other dressing room on Broadway. My job rocks. That keeps me inspired.”
ON THE SERIOUS SIDE: “This show isn’t meant to be Mormon bashing, but rather it uses the Mormon religion to make a bigger statement about the natural evolution of religion in general. What I love more than anything about the show is that it gets people talking about faith, how it works in their lives and what it does for them.”
THE WAY TO BROADWAY: Growing up in Southern California, Barnhardt fell in love with performing at about age 4, when he saw tap dancing on TV and begged his parents for lessons. He attended the Orange County High School of the Arts and wanted to go to a theater conservatory, but was not accepted. But, he says, “Wagner ended up being the perfect training ground for me … a safe place for me to grow up, become a man, and really learn New York City.”
BIG PICTURE: At Wagner, he indulged his inner “academic nerd,” taking courses ranging from religion to sociology to business to ceramics. “My favorite class to date is still Dr. Kaelber’s Death and Beyond religion course, studying the rituals and afterlife beliefs of cultures and religions around the world. And I think all of the academic variety really informed my theater studies.”
BUDDING DIRECTOR: In 2009, he stepped in to direct The Who’s Tommy for Wagner College Theatre after the sudden death of Professor Christopher Catts. “That experience has led me to actively pursue more directing work. I don’t know if that sort of opportunity would have been presented to me had I gone to NYU or Carnegie, but I am so grateful that Wagner College has given me as much as it has.”
FAVORITE MORMON LINE: “The one line that always makes me giggle is a Sound of Music reference in Elder Price’s big power ballad, I Believe. ‘A Warlord who shoots people in the face … What’s so scary about that?’ Brilliant.”
Photo Credit: Laura Marie Duncan