Queensland blessed with Book of Mormon encore
AFTER two years and hundreds of hours on stage in the Lucky Country, Nyk Bielak feels like an honorary Aussie.
The Winnipeg native returns to Brisbane next month for an encore season of The Book of Mormon.
He and co-star Blake Bowden played to sellout audiences at QPAC's Lyric Theatre at the start of the year in their leading roles as mismatched Mormon missionaries Elder Price (Bowden) and Elder Cunningham (Bielak) in the comedy musical by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
"I'm excited to be coming back," he says.
"Brisbane audiences are super fun. I think they appreciate a bit of naughty humour."
Bielak came to the Australian production straight from the New York company, and the transition from Broadway has been a smooth one.
"I find it very similar to Canada," Bielak says. "I've found myself an Australian girlfriend. She's from Wagga Wagga, so I feel like it's pretty authentic (laughs). I feel like an honorary Aussie."
He has also toured the US and Canada with the award-winning musical, meaning he has lived and breathed The Book of Mormon for the past six years.
"To be with a show for this long, it's all I know. I love it and I know it like the back of my hand. I'll probably never get a chance to do anything like this ever again," he says.
"The merging of the two worlds - South Park and musicals - was completely crazy to me. When I saw it, I was so obsessed. Then getting the role after university was like I won the lottery. A year after that I was on stage singing with Nikki (M. James, as Nabulungi) who won a Tony for that role.
"Six years later I'm still having a good time and to this day we still love our jobs. We're constantly finessing and changing things. The show changes night to night depending on the energy of the audience and the space we're in."
Bowden has been with the Australian company, which notched up its 1000th show in Perth recently, for three years.
"Getting to know this one character and this one show so well, as an actor it makes me feel really powerful," he says. "I'm able to change the most subtle things and it can have the most massive impact on the audience and their reaction on that night."
Bowden says he had to warm up to his character Kevin Price, a newly-minted missionary who is sure he is destined to do something incredible.
But that faith is rocked when he's sent to Uganda, instead of his dream destination of Orlando, with classmate Arnold Cunningham - an insecure and compulsive liar.
"When I first started tackling it (the role), I thought he wasn't anything like me. But the more that you delve into someone the more I realised I was cast because he is like me," he says.
"He truly believes he's going to save people, but he's paired with someone who has a completely different agenda to that and also isn't following any of the rules.
"The beautiful thing about him is he comes full circle and really realises he's been tooled with the wrong things. He goes on this journey of self discovery with the help of Elder Cunningham and really brings the whole show together. I'd like to think I have that ability - that if I'm heading in the wrong direction I can pick myself up and turn myself around."
Even though the musical is a satirical look at the quirkier beliefs and practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, it also celebrates the commitment and good work of the missionaries.
"For me, there was a bit of research involved into what the faith was and how these kids are trained for their mission," Bowden says.
"The great thing about the show is everything we say is true. It's this incredibly noble thing these teenagers do to this day. They go on this mission for two years and give up all social media, Netflix, mobile phones, and dedicate themselves to their faith and this community. Outside the Mormon faith I don't know many teenagers who would dedicate two years of their life to what they see is a higher purpose."
The Book of Mormon plays QPAC's Lyric Theatre from January 3 to February 14. For more information and tickets go to BookOfMormonMusical.com.au.