The Book of Mormon
When the road tour of “The Book of Mormon” visits the Broward Center for the Performing Arts Tuesday through Feb. 7, it will be a sort of homecoming for David Aron Damane.
That’s because Damane, who plays the Broadway show’s villain the General, hasn’t really left South Florida since he graduated from the University of Miami in the early ’90s.
“I’m down there pretty often,” Damane says during a telephone interview while the musical-comedy played Atlanta. “Slowly but surely, my family is moving down there from New Jersey. They’re in Palm Beach Gardens, and I have an uncle in Coral Gables.”
The 41-year-old has appeared on Broadway in “The Life,” “Porgy and Bess,” “Don’t Dress for Dinner” and “The Book of Mormon.”
“I started in ‘The Book of Mormon’ on Broadway in June of 2012,” he says. “And then, that December, I started the national tour. I’ve done this show for 3 1⁄ years.
2 It’s the longest time I’ve been in a show.”
A satire and a send-up as well as an homage to the power of a religious story, “The Book of Mormon” follows Mormon missionaries, Elders Price and Cunningham, as they travel to Africa. Price has a crisis of faith after his confrontation with the General, and Cunningham refashions the liturgy with dashes of pop culture to win over converts.
“The thing that most people don’t realize is that [the General] is based on a real person, even his redemption,” Damane says. “Most people have no idea. There really was a General Butt Naked [real name: Joshua Milton Blahyi]. Almost nothing in this show is made up. Eighty to 90 percent of this show is absolutely true.”
Here’s more about Damane.
you end up at the University of Miami?
uncle went there in the late ’70s, early ’80s. I remember visiting as a kid. I thought, “This is cool.” I had never been to South Florida before. Anyway, I was a pre-med major in high school. So when I was going to apply to colleges, I kind of already knew about UM and Jackson Memorial [Hospital]. So I thought, “Well, UM I love.” Of course, I got there, and I took an acting class as an elective and that was it.
never did any performing before? Not even in high school?
was in chorus. I remember I was, like, singing in the hallway on my way to class and this teacher popped out of a room and said, “You’re in chorus.” I was inherently shy, and I skipped a few grades in school, so I was a year or two younger than everyone else. I used to play sick whenever we had concerts. I was so anti getting in front of people. So the stage was the furthest thing from my mind. Then, I took acting. I took classes at Miami Dade College with Barbara Lowery. She is really the one who stoked my fire to be an actor. I finished everything in 3 1⁄ years. I
2 graduated from UM with a major in drama.
did you live at the
first year I lived on campus. Then, my grandparents started spending winters down there. My father started buying a few condominiums in North Miami Beach. I stayed in one of them, a one-bedroom one.
is your favorite part of “The Book of Mormon”?
do a lot of offstage singing. We have a monitor on our conductor and one on the side of the stage. In the process of seeing the conductor, depending on what city we’re in, we can see the people behind him in the audience. I’d say we can see about six people wide and about three or four rows back. So we’re always wondering what kind of people are in the front row today. We all love it. We make up back stories for the people. We try to figure out who’s together and who got dragged here. … When you’re in a show, you forget how wonderful the show is, how good the show is. So that’s the closest we get to enjoying it. We watch it in their eyes. I find myself smiling and not even knowing it. I saw [the show] 14 times. “Turn It Off” is always my favorite number. It’s magical. But you forget it when you’re in the show. And then, you see it in their
When: Tuesday through Where: Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., in Fort Lauderdale. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays and 6:30 p.m. Sundays, with matinees 2 p.m. Saturdays and 1 p.m. Sundays. Cost: $40-$175 Contact: call 954-462-0222 or go to BrowardCenter.org eyes, and there it is. NowI remember.
done a lot of TV, but you’re trained for the stage. What switch do you have to flick in your mind for the difference?
really have to make a conscious decision, especially if you do a lot of stage work, to bring it down a bit. And invariably when a film star does stage, they have to be told to build it up more because they don’t read past the fourth row. When you see someone acting on a film set, it looks like they’re doing nothing. You have to let your eyes do the work. On the stage, it’s so big, and that’s the opposite of what you have with film and TV. It looks so normal. It’s such a minute art form. It’s such an intimate art form. A twitch of an eyebrow can tell your entire story, so you have to be very careful, very economical. It’s almost scientific when you choose to do that.
My first TV gig was “All My Children.” I remember doing my scenes and then watching the other guys work, and I’m watching with horror because I realized that I was doing way too much. And I was thinking, “Why didn’t anyone tell me?” I’m 6-foot-2, so not only was I bigger than everyone else, I was acting bigger than everyone else. But one thing I learned right away was that most actors don’t blink, and when they do blink, it means something.
The national touring company of “The Book of Mormon” will appear Tuesday through Feb. 7 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. UM grad David Aron Damane, below, plays the General. Feb. 7