Kemari Bryant’s acting career has started with some big “firsts.” He is the first graduate of the UNCG School of Theatre with a degree in Musical Theatre, and now he is on his first national tour with the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon.
“It’s been amazing. I’ve had a chance to travel to places that were never on my radar. It’s also incredible from an acting standpoint. When you do a show in one place you get used to the type of audience you have there. Touring is a real experience. You might be in L.A. one week then Springfield, Missouri the next. People in different cities or areas of the country take on the show in different ways.”
Bryant says that’s one of the lessons he learned at UNCG’s School of Theatre—how to gauge an audience and play to it.
“We really explored that in our training, that and so many things that got me to this point. In the UNCG program we talk about the toolbelt. Our classes, workshops, and shows give us all the tools we need. Now I’m doing this show and I’m really reaching into that toolbelt. There’ve been so many times when I think back to what John Gulley (Professor of Acting and Directing) taught me freshman year and how I can use it now.”
Bryant graduated in December of 2021 with plans to go to New York by summer. But before then he signed with an agent and began flying up to auditions and sending self-tapes. His final callback for The Book of Mormon was in May of 2022, and just a few weeks after moving to the city, he got the word.
“I was working in coffee shops, reconnecting with UNCG alumni in New York, and just getting the vibe of being in the city when I got the email from my agent that I’d booked the tour.”
The Book of Mormon won nine Tony Awards in 2011, including Best Musical. With a book, music and lyrics by Robert Lopez, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the show follows two young missionaries who are sent to Uganda to try to convert citizens to the Mormon religion. Casey Nicholaw and Parker co-directed the production, which features choreography by Nicholaw,
“This show is everything from laugh out loud funny to heartwarming to downright shocking,” says Bryant. “I feel like the comedic musical is such a rare thing on Broadway these days. This show has back-to-back jokes. There are references to other shows. You will laugh throughout. The show is also full of music and dance like a Golden Age show – it’s a spectacle.”
Bryant says the show has made him realize the importance of another tool he packed into his actor’s toolbelt at UNCG.
“Take away the idea of perfection and be a little messy. There’s so much to gain from truthfulness and boldness. Be willing to make choices that might be outside what you might feel is safe. Experiment. Erin Speer (Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre) always told us to make a choice, just make it honest and make it your own. People really want to see you—that’s why they cast you, right? Bring yourself to your role.”
And while Bryant is bringing himself to his role, the tour is bringing him to Greensboro. The Book of Mormon opens at the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts on February 21st.
Bryant says he can’t wait to be back.
“UNCG gave me a place to foster my different talents and interests and gave me space to work with mentors and collaborators who always supported me and were essential to my becoming the actor and the person I am today.”
The Book of Mormon will be at the Tanger Center through February 26th.
Story by Terri W. Relos
The Book of Mormon photo by Julieta Cervantes
Headshot provided by Kemari Bryant